A veterinary nurse from a Thrapston surgery has been suspended by a disciplinary meeting, after she took home a cat that was due to be euthanised.
Sally-Ann Roberts was suspended from the register for two months on Tuesday, following a meeting of The Registered Veterinary Nurse Disciplinary Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS).
During the two-day hearing, the Committee heard how Ms Roberts, formerly of the Best Friends Veterinary Group in Thrapston, had deliberately gone against the wishes of the owners of a 14-year-old Maine Coon cat called Jason that he be euthanised, rather than treated further.
Instead Ms Roberts had taken the cat home with her for “intensive nursing”. Jason had subsequently escaped from Ms Robert’s residence, leading her to fabricate a story, first to the pet database company, and then to Jason’s owners and her employer, that he had escaped from the practice, before being returned by a member of the public two days later and then euthanised as originally requested.
Ms Roberts acted with her veterinary surgeon colleague Przemyslaw Bogdanowicz, who chose not to euthanise Jason and who, for his part, received a three-month suspension from the RCVS Disciplinary Committee in December 2012. She repeated the false account on a number of occasions, both orally and in written statements, and also forged the signature of Jason’s owner on official documentation in order to substantiate her story.
Only when Ms Roberts was interviewed for a second time by her then employer’s area manager, did she finally admit to what had actually happened.
Shortly afterwards, Ms Roberts was suspended from the practice and, following an internal disciplinary hearing a few days later, was dismissed by them for gross misconduct, along with Mr Bogdanowicz. There was no evidence available as to what ultimately happened to Jason.
Explaining her actions to the Committee, Ms Roberts said she was upset that Jason’s owners wanted him to be euthanised and felt that he could recover if given some love and attention. She had asked Mr Bogdanowicz to discuss this possibility with Jason’s owners, but he had refused, agreeing instead that she could continue Jason’s treatment at her home.
After Jason escaped, Ms Roberts said she was “devastated” and had “panicked”, inventing the story of Jason’s escape to cover her actions, which she now acknowledged were “wrong” and “stupid”, and which she “bitterly regretted”. Ms Roberts expressed sorrow and remorse for her behaviour, which she said would never occur again, and stated that being a veterinary nurse was everything to her.
She admitted to acting dishonestly with her employer, a client and a pet database company by taking home a patient that was supposed to have been euthanised.
In view of the admitted facts, the Committee judged that Ms Robert’s dishonesty and breach of client trust, as well the distinct risk of injury to which she exposed Jason, amounted to serious professional misconduct.
In deciding on an appropriate sanction, the Committee balanced a number of aggravating factors, particularly the forged signature, against Ms Roberts’ “strong mitigation”, which included her admitting the entirety of the charges against her, her medical and personal problems at the time, the insight she had shown into the effects of her actions on Jason’s owners and her previous unblemished career.
Professor Peter Lees, chairing and speak on behalf of the Committee, said: “The Committee has concluded that the Respondent has shown insight into the seriousness of her misconduct and that there is no significant risk of repeat behaviour.
“In light of the Respondent’s admission, her insight, her remorse and the high regard in which she is held by her professional colleagues, it is the Committee’s view that the sanction of two months’ suspension is appropriate and proportionate.”