Disciplinary Committee Suspends Former Southampton Vet

By Royal College Of Veterinary Surgeons, PRNE
Wednesday, January 19, 2011

LONDON, January 20, 2011 - The Disciplinary Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
has this week suspended from the RCVS Register a veterinary surgeon formerly
practising in Southampton for failing to make animal welfare his primary

At a hearing this week [17/18 January] adjourned from September 2010, the
Disciplinary Committee heard charges against Michael Albring, formerly of
VetCall practice, Bitterne, Southampton. Mr Albring was said to have failed
to make a home visit to attend Bear, a Newfoundland dog belonging to Mrs
Thacker, when he knew, or ought to have known, that there were clinical or
welfare grounds making a home visit necessary.

The hearing was held in Mr Albring's absence; the Committee considered
that, having postponed the case last year at his request, Mr Albring had had
ample time to prepare his case and submit any mitigations, and sufficient
opportunity to attend. Additional adjournment would further delay the
matter's resolution and not be in the wider interests of justice, or public
confidence in either the RCVS disciplinary system or the veterinary

On the evening of 19 December 2009, Mr Albring had been the veterinary
surgeon on duty at VetCall, a practice that provides the out of-hours
emergency cover for several local veterinary practices, including the one
where Bear was registered. When Mrs Thacker's daughter, Ms Davidson,
telephoned VetCall to request a home visit as the dog had collapsed, she was
told that it was against practice policy for the practice to be left unmanned
so this would not be possible. This was despite a written policy which
accepted and made provision for the rare occasions when a home visit would be
necessary. Phoning again later, the information about practice policy was
repeated and Ms Davidson directed to a local animal ambulance service, which

The ambulance driver found that the dog could not be transported in the
ambulance and telephoned VetCall to say a home visit was needed. This was
refused by Mr Albring even, the Committee noted, when the ambulance driver
offered to collect Mr Albring, drive him to Ms Davidson's home 10-15 minutes
away, assist with the euthanasia, and return him to the clinic. In the
interim, Ms Davidson had also sought help from a separate practice and,
subsequent to Mr Albring's refusal to visit, their on-duty veterinary surgeon
attended and euthanased Bear.

The Committee found that Mr Albring's refusal to visit, once it was clear
Bear could not be transported, and he knew that a home visit was necessary on
welfare grounds, resulted in Bear spending longer than necessary in pain and
distress. This was not a case where the pressure of work or the welfare needs
of other animals prevented Mr Albring from attending, and it was also
relevant that Mr Albring was specifically employed to work out of hours in an
emergency clinic. Serious, too, was his failure to reply promptly to
communications from the RCVS, or show insight into the seriousness of his

In mitigation, the Committee accepted that this was an isolated case, and
there were no previous findings against Mr Albring. He was in sole charge of
an emergency clinic covering 15-20 practices across Southampton and
Portsmouth, which would make, in some circumstances, home visits difficult.

"The Committee is concerned that the actual policy pursued by the clinic
regarding domiciliary visits was different to the written one," said
Professor Sheila Crispin, chairing the Disciplinary Committee. "In effect, a
no-visits policy existed at the VetCall clinic and this must have added to
the pressure under which the Respondent [Mr Albring] was working.

"The Committee is mindful that the object of sanctions is not to be
punitive, but to protect animal welfare, to maintain public confidence in the
profession and to maintain appropriate standards," she continued, noting that
as animal welfare had knowingly been neglected and Mr Albring had
demonstrated no insight, a warning or reprimand would not be enough. "A
period of suspension would be sufficient to maintain public confidence in the
profession and uphold standards," she said.

The Committee directed that Mr Albring's name be suspended from the RCVS
Register of Veterinary Surgeons for ten months.


1. The RCVS is the regulatory body for veterinary surgeons in the UK and
deals with issues of professional misconduct, maintaining the register of
veterinary surgeons eligible to practise in the UK and assuring standards of
veterinary education.

2. RCVS disciplinary powers are exercised through the Preliminary
Investigation and Disciplinary Committees, established in accordance with
Schedule 2 to the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (the 1966 Act). The RCVS has
authority to deal with three types of case:

    a) Fraudulent registration
    b) Criminal convictions
    c) Allegations of disgraceful professional conduct

3. The Disciplinary Committee is a constituted judicial tribunal under
the 1966 Act and follows rules of evidence similar to those used in a court
of law.

4. The burden of proving an allegation falls upon the RCVS, and the RCVS
must prove to the standard that the Committee is sure.

5. A respondent veterinary surgeon may appeal a Disciplinary Committee
decision to the Privy Council within 28 days of the date of the decision. If
no appeal is received, the Committee's judgment takes effect after this

6. It is a criminal offence contrary to section 19 of the Veterinary
Surgeons Act 1966 to practise as a veterinary surgeon unless registered in
the RCVS Register of Members. Further information, including the original
charges against Mr Albring, and the Committee's findings and decision on
sanction, can be found at www.rcvs.org.uk/disciplinary.

For more information please contact: Claire Millington, Royal College of
Veterinary Surgeons, +44(0)20-7202-0783 / c.millington@rcvs.org.uk .

For more information please contact: Claire Millington, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, +44(0)20-7202-0783 / c.millington at rcvs.org.uk .

will not be displayed