Shropshire Vet Suspended for Dishonest TB Certification

By Royal College Of Veterinary Surgeons, PRNE
Wednesday, March 16, 2011

LONDON, March 17, 2011 - The Disciplinary Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
(RCVS) this week [15 March 2011] suspended from the Register for ten months a
veterinary surgeon found to have dishonestly certified that he carried out
bovine tuberculosis (TB) testing and measured and recorded the test reactions
of 248 cattle, when in fact he knew he had not tested all the animals.

At the start of the two-day hearing, John Owen-Thomas of Teme Veterinary
Practice, Ludlow, Shropshire, admitted that in September 2009 he had
dishonestly certified that all the cattle on a farm had been tested for TB
when he knew he had not tested all of them. He also admitted failing
adequately to identify the cattle he had tested, failing to measure the
skin-folds of all the animals, and to entering false information into the
national cattle-tracing recording system about the reaction measurements he
had purportedly taken.

The facts of the case, accepted by Mr Owen-Thomas, were that whilst
working as an Official Veterinarian (OV) for Animal Health, an executive
agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, he had
visited a farm to carry out TB testing on 248 cattle, following the discovery
of TB reactors in the herd.

Mr Owen-Thomas did not, however, check the animals' ear-tag numbers or
make any notes about the individual animals he was testing, as required by
Animal Health procedures. When subsequently checking for test reactions, he
only measured cattle on whose necks he felt a lump, when he should have
checked them all; there were also a number of animals which were not tested.
Despite this, skin thickness measurements were entered into the records for
all 248 animals. The matter came to light during a farm visit from Animal
Health after a chance conversation with the farmer. Mr Owen then admitted he
had not tested all the cattle as recorded, and was suspended from OV work.

"On previous occasions the Committee has emphasised the importance of the
integrity of the certification process," said Beverley Cottrell, chairing the
Committee. "The validity of any certificate is an integral part of the system
relating to disease control and the maintenance of public health. It is
essential that all particulars concerning the animal are true and that all
requirements have been complied with." The Committee also considered that, as
an OV, Mr Owen-Thomas was in a position of trust and responsibility which he
failed adequately to discharge, particularly as there had been TB in the
herd. That Mr Owen-Thomas undermined procedures in place to prevent the
spread of disease was a further aggravating factor.

"However, the Committee considers that Mr Owen-Thomas's prompt admissions
demonstrate insight into the unacceptable nature of his actions," said Mrs
Cottrell, noting as mitigating factors the attestations from farming clients
as to his skill and dedication to his work, and that the charge related to a
single farm visit. "False certification will inevitably lead to consideration
of the removal of a Member's name from the Register ['striking off']," she
continued. "However, the Committee has concluded that in this case the
removal of Mr Owen-Thomas's name from the Register is neither necessary in
the public interest, nor necessary to protect the welfare of animals, nor is

The Committee directed that Mr Owen-Thomas's name be suspended from the
Register for a period of 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

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.Further information, including the original charges against Mr
Owen-Thomas and the Committee's findings and decision, can be found at

For more information contact: Ian Holloway, +44(0)20-7202-0727,

For more information contact: Ian Holloway, +44(0)20-7202-0727, i.holloway at

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