West Midlands-based veterinary nurse Laura Jane Garfield has been struck off by the RCVS Veterinary Nurse Disciplinary Committee after it found that she had misled and been dishonest with a charity.

The Disciplinary Committee heard that Mrs Garfield had told a representative of the Retired Greyhound Trust (RGT) that she had possession of a greyhound called Lola, that she proposed keeping Lola living with her as an adoptee, and that she would not relinquish 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 and that, as a result, her conduct was misleading and dishonest.

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 re-home 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."

Judith 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 gravamen [seriousness] 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."

The Committee judged that the charge and its parts constituted serious professional misconduct and went on to consider the sanction against Mrs 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 Mrs 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. The Committee also accepted the testimonials and positive evidence from colleagues. 

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.

"In the result, it is the conclusion and decision of this Committee that the only proper sanction that can be imposed in this case is that the respondent’s name should be removed from the Register.”

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

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