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Complain about a vet

When you buy veterinary care for your pet you are buying a service. By law, a service should be carried out with reasonable care and skill.

The standard of care is judged from what other vets would reasonably do under the same circumstances. Failure to meet this standard is professional negligence.

This page tells you what to do if you have a complaint against your vet for negligence or misconduct.

If the vet has been negligent

Negligence must result in harm, loss, injury or damage of some sort. For example, a vet may fail to prescribe the appropriate course of treatment and, as a result, the animal suffers permanent injury or dies.

If you think your vet has been negligent and you want to complain, you will need to decide what outcome you want. For example, you may want:

  • a formal apology
  • a refund
  • free corrective treatment
  • compensation.

Claiming compensation

If your pet suffers pain, injury, inconvenience or you have extra costs because of negligence, you are entitled to compensation.

Before you claim compensation, try and negotiate with your vet first. You may want to get advice about doing this.

If this doesn't work, you may want to take legal action. You should get expert legal advice early on.

It can be very difficult to prove negligence. Often, it comes down to the personal, professional judgement of your vet about what was the most appropriate treatment in your pet’s case. You may need to get a second opinion. However, another vet might be reluctant to get involved in a complaint against another member of their profession. If they do agree to give a second opinion, they will probably charge for this.  

Legal action for negligence must be started within three years of the negligence occurring, or of you becoming aware of it.

Misconduct

Professional misconduct includes behaviour such as dishonesty, taking advantage of your age or inexperience, or acting against your instructions.

All vets must adhere to the code of professional conduct laid down by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

If you believe your vet has been guilty of professional misconduct, report the matter immediately to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons who will investigate.

If the Royal College has found a vet guilty of misconduct, it may discipline the vet but it has no power to compensate you. You may still want to pursue the vet for compensation if your pet has been injured.

To claim compensation, you should try and negotiate with your vet first. You may want to get advice about doing this. If this doesn't work, you may want to take legal action and should get expert legal advice.

Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS)

Belgravia House
62-64 Horseferry Road
London
SW1P 2AF
Tel: 020 7222 2001
Email: info@rcvs.org.uk
Website: www.rcvs.org.uk

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