Many complaints about veterinary practitioners often result from a breakdown in communication between the veterinary practitioner and the customer.
If you believe that the treatment you or your animal has received from a veterinary practitioner is unsatisfactory, or if you have a concern regarding your veterinary practitioner’s behaviour, you are encouraged to address the matter with the veterinary practitioner or the superintendent of the premises in the first instance. If, after approaching the provider you feel that your concerns still haven’t been addressed, or if you don’t feel able to approach them yourself, the following information will assist you in making a formal complaint to the Veterinary Practitioners Board (the Board).
This information only applies when the alleged contravention by a veterinary practitioner occurred in the ACT. Complaints received by the Board are managed in accordance with the Veterinary Practice Act 2018.
The Board is not empowered to investigate complaints that relate to the setting of fees or the costs imposed by veterinary practitioners or veterinary premises in the ACT. Complaints of this nature should be raised with the Office of Fair Trading through Access Canberra.
Who can make a complaint?
A person, who believes on reasonable grounds that a veterinary practitioner has contravened or is contravening the required standards of practice or does not satisfy the suitability requirements to practise as a veterinary practitioner in the ACT, may report the veterinary practitioner to the Board.
How do I make a complaint?
For the Board to accept a complaint against a veterinary practitioner, the complaint must be in writing and be signed by the complainant. Note: Complaints received by email will be deemed to be signed by the complainant.
Persons can also download the ‘Formal Complaint about a Veterinary Practitioner’ form and forward to the Board in one of the following ways:
ACT Veterinary Practitioners Board
GPO Box 158
CANBERRA ACT 2601
Note: there is a 10MB limit for each email received at this address. You may wish to split up documents that go over this limit into several emails or use a Dropbox. The Secretariat will confirm receipt of your application.
Complaints can also be made with the ACT Human Rights Commission (HRC), who jointly considers all complaints received with the Board.
Complaints to the HRC can be sent in one of the following ways:
Health Services Commissioner
ACT Human Rights Commission
GPO Box 158
Canberra ACT 2601
How are complaints assessed?
In deciding on an appropriate course of action, the Board will consult with the Health Services Commissioner of HRC.This step is unique to the ACT. The role of the HRC is to ensure the Board is following human rights principles.
The complaints process is as follows:
- Joint consideration of complaint with Human Rights Commission (HRC);
- Complaint passed to the named veterinary practitioner for a response;
- The complaint together with the response will be reviewed by the Board. This can be undertaken with outside analysis by a non-allied veterinary practitioner or a specialist in the area of complaint;
- Further information may be requested at this step if required;
- Board decision: and
- Right of Appeal – decisions by the Board on complaints can be appealed – refer to ‘Schedule 1 Reviewable Decisions’ of the Act.
Is the named veterinary practitioner told of who made the complaint?
If you have provided permission to release your complaint, the named veterinary practitioner will be provided with a full copy of the complaint, and any associated documents you provide with your complaint. Providing a full copy of the complaint allows the named veterinary practitioner to fully respond to each element of the complaint.
If you do not wish your name to be passed to the named veterinary practitioner, then this should be clearly outlined in your complaint. Where permission to release the name of the complainant (or the complaint) is not provided, the named veterinary practitioner will only receive a general outline of the complaint. Under these circumstances it may be difficult for the named veterinary practitioner to provide a full response to the complaint and for the Board to assess the merits of the complaint.
What actions can the Board take?
Options available to the Board include:
- Immediate suspension of the veterinary practitioner;
- Imposition of a condition placed on veterinary practitioner’s registration;
- Issue a warning, fine, or ACAT occupational discipline order to the veterinary practitioner;
- Make recommendations to the veterinary practitioner;
- dismissal of complaint.
How long does it take to process a complaint?
Persons wishing to lodge a complaint with the Board should be aware that the process for complaints is often defined by timeframes imposed by legislation. The Board sits once each month (except December) and will consider complaints ready for review at this time. It is not uncommon for complaints to remain active for a number of months to allow relevant parties to respond and for all documentation to be reviewed.
The Board is required to keep complainants informed on the progress of their complaint. The Board will provide complainants progress reports every six weeks.
How can I find out where my complaint is up to?
You can contact the Board Secretariat on 6207 0012 or firstname.lastname@example.org who can provide advice on the status of your complaint. The Board Secretariat's advice is restricted to the complaint process only and cannot provide details about Board deliberations relating to a complaint.
What happens if I am not satisfied with the Board's response?
HRC offers a conciliation service if you are unsatisfied with the Board’s decision. Alternatively, you may seek your own independent legal advice if you remain unsatisfied with the Board's response to your complaint.
Complaints process map