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Dr Vlad Butnaru faced two charges, the first of which was that in May 2021, he had signed a passport and/or passport application for a horse and electronically signed a declaration stating that he “had read the above microchip, which had previously been implanted for the animal” when, in fact, the microchip had not been inserted into any horse and he had not read it.
The second charge was that, in relation to the matters set out in the first charge, Dr Butnaru’s signed declaration was false, and that he had acted dishonestly and misleadingly, he risked undermining procedures designed to promote animal welfare, and failed to take sufficient steps to ensure that the microchip number recorded for the horse was accurate.
Dr Butnaru admitted the first charge on all counts, and that the declaration he had signed was false.
He also admitted that his conduct was misleading and that he had failed to take sufficient steps to ensure that the microchip number recorded for the horse was accurate.
However, he denied that his conduct had been dishonest and that he had risked undermining a procedure designed to promote animal welfare.
In its decision, the committee noted that Dr Butnaru kept introducing new versions of what happened for the first time at the hearing and changed his account as he went along, as well as being evasive when answering questions.
The Committee therefore felt that Dr Butnaru could not be considered to be a reliable witness, and whilst it did not know the true reason why he was prepared to sign a false declaration on a passport application, it was satisfied that he'd made a false declaration dishonestly.
The Committee also found that Dr Butnaru had failed to take sufficient steps to ensure that the microchip number recorded for the horse was accurate as, if the passport had been issued on a false premise because of misleading information provided by Dr Butnaru, then it could not function as it was meant to which, in the Committee’s view, clearly risked undermining procedures designed to protect animal welfare.
The Committee found that Dr Butnaru had breached the parts 6.2 and 6.5 of the Code of Professional Conduct, as well as Principle 1 of the 10 Principles of Certification, namely that ‘a veterinarian should certify only those matters which: a) are within his or her own knowledge; b) can be ascertained by him or her personally; c) are the subject of supporting evidence from an authorised veterinarian who has personal knowledge of the matters in question; or d) are the subject of checks carried out by an Officially Authorised Person (OAP).’
The Committee found there were no mitigating factors.
Aggravating factors, on the other hand, were that Dr Butnaru had participated in premeditated misconduct, made financial gain from his actions as he was paid to make the false declaration, abused his professional position, and showed blatant or wilful disregard of the Horse Passport System and of the role of the RCVS and the systems that regulate the veterinary profession.
The Committee found that all proven charges amounted to Disgraceful Conduct in a Professional Respect.
On considering the sanction, the Committee once again considered the aggravating factors, as well as additional mitigating factors in that Dr Butnaru had no previous disciplinary history, showed limited insight by admitting to some of the charges, showed expressions of remorse, and was provided with a positive testimonial.
Paul Morris, chairing the Committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “The Committee was cognisant of the importance of a veterinary surgeon’s signature on any document.
"This should have been obvious to any veterinary surgeon, but particularly someone of Dr Butnaru’s 11 years’ experience (at the time of signing).
"The Committee was well aware of the impact and ramifications for Dr Butnaru of any decision to remove him from the Register, but had to weigh his interests with those of the public.
“In doing so it took account of the context and circumstances of the case, all matters of personal mitigation, Dr Butnaru’s previous unblemished record and the need to act proportionately.
"However, the Committee was of the view that the need to uphold proper standards of conduct within the veterinary profession, together with the public interest in maintaining confidence in the profession of veterinary surgeons and protecting the welfare of animals, meant that a period of suspension would not be sufficient.
"His actions were fundamentally incompatible with remaining on the Register and thus the only appropriate and proportionate sanction in all the circumstances of this case was that of removal from the Register.”
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