Boston-based Michael Kettle MRCVS has been reprimanded by the RCVS Disciplinary Committee after it found that he had used unnecessary force on a dog that had tried to bite him, and failed to handle it with sufficient care.

Dr Kettle faced a charge that he had grabbed the dog, a Shih Tzu named Bella, when she was in a kennel, and/or failed to take sufficient care to ensure that Bella did not fall from her kennel, hit Bella with his hand and/or muzzle, and carried Bella only by her collar and/or scruff.

At the outset, Dr Kettle admitted that he had committed the acts as alleged and that his conduct represented serious professional misconduct.

Having taken evidence from the College and the respondent into account, the Committee considered that Dr Kettle’s actions had not only placed Bella at risk of injury but had also caused her actual injury evidenced by her tongue turning blue for a few seconds, the fact that she soiled herself and her stillness in the treatment room.

However, it also concluded that the incident was a single episode in respect of a single animal that had occurred over a period of 30 seconds, so whilst his actions were serious, they were not aggravated by being sustained or repeated over a period of time.

In terms of mitigating factors, the Committee considered that the circumstances at the time of the incident were relevant.

It found Dr Kettle to be a credible witness and accepted that, during the time that the incident occurred, he had been going through a very difficult time personally with the loss of locum staff, the increased work pressure during the pandemic and unrelated adverse comments on social media.

The Committee considered that whilst these factors did not excuse his behaviour, they had affected how Dr Kettle had reacted towards Bella on the day.

The Committee also noted from clinical records that Dr Kettle had been Bella’s veterinary surgeon for over seven years, on nine occasions prior to the incident and on seven occasions subsequently.

There has been no such evidence of any other incidents happening within this time. Dr Kettle received highly positive testimonials attesting to his usual high standards of practice, both before and since the incident, and the Committee was satisfied that this incident could properly be characterised as isolated and out of character.

Kathryn Peaty, Chair of the Disciplinary Committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “It was clear that Dr Kettle was deeply remorseful and ashamed of his actions, immediately recognising the seriousness of what he had done.

"Indeed, it was apparent to the Committee from Dr Kettle’s evidence that this remorse and regret continue to weigh heavily on him.

“In all the circumstances, although the Committee did not consider that Dr Kettle’s misconduct was at the lower end of the spectrum of seriousness, given the absence of future risk to animals or the public, and the evidence of exemplary insight, the Committee concluded that a reprimand was the appropriate and proportionate sanction in this case.

“The Committee was satisfied that a reprimand would mark Dr Kettle’s misconduct and reassure the public that veterinary surgeons who act as Dr Kettle had done, would face regulatory consequences and sanction.”

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