College of Veterinarians
of British Columbia
November 23, 2014

The CVBC Complaints Process

Please note that the new Veterinarians Act, SBC 2010 c. 15, fully in force as of September 15, 2010, sets out a new set of rules for disclosure of disciplinary matters.  The CVBC will focus on taking steps to comply with these new requriements over the months following the in force date.  The new rules require disclosure of most disciplinary matters including interim suspensions and restrictions, from September 15, 2005 on.

Complaints about Veterinarians and the CVBC Complaints Process:

All veterinarians practising in the province must be registered and governed by the CVBC as the statutory body created by the Veterinarians Act to oversee, in the public interest, the practice of veterinary medicine in B.C.  Like every professional regulatory body, the CVBC is responsible for establishing and enforcing standards of professional competence and conduct for all practitioners, and for responding to complaints about veterinarians.

Veterinarians are required to in every aspect of the handling of a case, meet the standard of care, skill and knowledge, and conduct, expected of a competent and ethical professional.  They are also required to provide clients with a simple, complete and understandable explanation of the treatment recommended and ultimately provided for the animal, as well as an estimate of the anticipated costs before proceeding, and an itemized account afterwards.  They generally must provide the client with complete copies of all medical records for a reasonable fee upon the request of the client.

If you have a concern about the care your animal has received or your veterinarian's conduct, often the best first step is to discuss the matter with your veterinarian.  Many concerns relate to misunderstandings that can be resolved by clear and forthright communication.  As well, when dealing with a major animal health issue, obtaining a second opinion may give you a different perspective or additional helpful information and added comfort regarding your questions.

However, the CVBC ensures that a complaint process is in place and all concerns from the public are addressed.  The CVBC handles all complaints as quickly as possible. 

A complaint may ultimately be dismissed, sent to a discipline hearing or resolved by consent with the veterinarian. 

Under the new Veterinarians Act ('the Act'), the Investigation Committee handles all complaints and directs all investigations.  The Investigation Committee can direct an investigation on:

     - a public complaint,

     - a report of a practice inspector, or

     - on any information that is brought to its attention,

bearing in mind the matters that it is authorized to investigate:

     (a) a contravention of the Act, the regulations or the bylaws;

     (b) a failure to comply with a standard, limit or condition imposed under the Act;

     (c) a failure to comply with a term, condition or requirement imposed under section 3 (4) (c) of the Labour Mobility Act;

     (d) a conviction for an indictable offence;

     (e) a conviction for an offence relating to the care or treatment of animals;

     (f) professional misconduct;

     (g) conduct unbecoming a registrant;

     (h) competence to practise veterinary medicine;

     (i) a physical or mental ailment, an emotional disturbance or an addiction to alcohol or drugs that may impair a registrant's ability to practise veterinary medicine.

The Investigation Committee may dismiss complaints for the following reasons:

     (a) the complaint is trivial, frivolous, vexatious or made in bad faith;

     (b) the complaint concerns a matter over which the college does not have jurisdiction;

     (c) the complaint gives rise to an abuse of process;

     (d) the complaint is filed for an improper purpose or motive;

     (e) there is no reasonable prospect the complaint will be substantiated;

     (f) the substance of the complaint has been appropriately dealt with in another  proceeding.

A registrant must cooperate with an investigation, including providing information or records requested by the  Investigation Committee. 

The Investigation Committee may impose interim suspensions and restrictions, as can the Discipline Committee pending the outcome of a hearing.


What should a complaint letter contain?

A complaint letter must set out specific details of the incident(s) of concern, the name of the veterinarian(s) involved, if available, or the name of the veterinary facility(ies) involved, the name of the pet(s) involved, as well as your (the complainant's) contact information (address and phone number). This information is necessary to ensure that the complaint is properly investigated. 

All bona fide complaints received by the Registrar are submitted to the Investigation Committee (the "IC") Intake Panel (the "IP") for a decision as to whether the matter triggers the CVBC's jurisdiction, and therefore will be investigated.  The IC has sole responsibility for determining which complaints require investigation and for determining the outcome of any investigations. 

The Registrar's office therefore cannot comment on whether the IC will dismiss your complaint or direct an investigation of the matter; however you will be informed of the outcome of the IC's decisions in a timely manner.


How to submit a complaint regarding a veterinarian:

The College of Veterinarians of BC (the "CVBC") is the body that that has the authority and duty to investigate complaints about veterinarians in BC.

To submit a formal complaint against a veterinarian you must deliver it to the Registrar in writing. The College will not accept verbal complaints.

A complaint can be submitted via email to ComplaintsCoordinator@cvbc.ca. or to reception@cvbc.ca. Alternatively it can be submitted to the CVBC office at #107 - 828 Harbourside Drive, North Vancouver, BC, V7P 3R9; or by fax to 1-604-929-7095.


Complaints Regarding Veterinary Bills

Please note that the CVBC may investigate and impose discipline for some types of bill-related complaints (see below) but does NOT have the power to direct a veterinarian to lower a bill or refund or compensate a client. 

The CVBC will investigate complaints about billing if there is evidence of the following: 

  1. Charging for services that were not rendered.

  2. Failure to provide the client with a reasonable estimate of the cost of the recommended medical services.

  3. Failure to obtain informed consent for the medical services rendered and actions taken. 

  4. Fees that are so high as to be unconscionable. 

  5. Failure to provide the client with a fully itemized bill, upon the client's request.

  6. Misleading advertising pertaining to the fees charged.  This could happen for example if the ad listed a certain fee amount for a spay operation and did not make it clear that charges for such elements as examination, surgical tray fee, anaesthetic and sedation, pain relief, sutures, fluids, etc. were not included in the advertised fee.

Please also note that there is no mandatory fee guide or schedule for veterinarians.

Updated: February 13, 2014

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