West Midlands vet nurse struck off for misleading greyhound charity

The Veterinary Nurse Disciplinary Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has directed the registrar strike off a West Midlands vet nurse after it found she had misled a charity.

The hearing for Laura Jane Garfield took place between July 24-27, 2018 and related to the allegations that she had been dishonest with the charity regarding an adopted greyhound named Lola.

The committee heard that on March 12, 2017, when meeting with a representative of the Retired Greyhound Trust (RGT) she had told them that she had possession of Lola and that she proposed keeping her as an adoptee. Garfield also allegedly said that she would not part with possession of Lola except to the RGT.

This was despite the fact that, at the time of signing the adoption agreement, she had already given Lola to another charity named Greyhound Gap.

In considering the facts of the case, the committee found the charges and all constituent parts proven and went on to consider whether this amounted to disgraceful conduct in a professional respect.

Judith Way, chairing the committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “The end result of the respondent’s decisions and conduct meant that RGT was persuaded to pass lawful possession and ownership of the dog Lola to the respondent when it would not have agreed to do so had it been told the truth by her.

“In truth, the respondent was not going to adopt and rehome Lola herself. Instead, the respondent’s plan and intention was that Lola should be passed on to a third party who had been recommended by a rival dog rescue charity for rehome and adoption.”

Legal battle over Lola

She added: “The consequence was that a social media dispute broke out when the rival dog charity decided to attempt to take advantage of the erroneous belief of the respondent that a decision had been taken by RGT to put Lola to sleep.

“The publicity generated by the respondent’s erroneous belief…was obviously adverse. The [most serious aspect] of the respondent’s dishonest conduct was that she set one dog rescue charity against another, caused them to spend publicly raised funds on a legal dispute about who should be allowed to retain Lola when those precious funds ought, instead, to have been spent on their charitable objectives.”

Ruling

The committee judged that the charge and its parts constituted serious professional misconduct and went on to consider the sanction against Garfield.

In considering the proportionate sanction, the committee took into account both mitigating and aggravating factors.

In terms of aggravating factors, the committee considered that the dishonesty was pre-meditated; that she accused members of a rescue charity of lying and demonstrated no or only minimal insight into her wrongdoing.

In mitigation, the committee considered that Garfield had cooperated with the college in its investigations, that she had acted in the genuine belief that she was acting in the best interests of Lola and that her conduct did not put Lola at risk or cause her to suffer any adverse consequences as a result.

However, the committee decided that removal from the register would be the only appropriate sanction.

Summing up, Judith Way said: “The reputational consequences for RGT were potentially significant bearing in mind that it is a rescue organisation with some 57 or so branches across the country.

“All of these consequences, actual and potential, stem from the respondent’s premeditated act of dishonesty in relation to which the committee considers she showed very limited insight prior to this disciplinary hearing, as she did during the course of this hearing.”

Garfield has 28 days from being informed of the committee’s decision to appeal.