Belleville vet fined, has license suspended after pleading guilty to professional misconduct

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A Belleville vet has pleaded guilty to professional misconduct after a dog in his care passed away in 2019.

The matter was heard by a discipline committee of the College of Veterinarians of Ontario on January 25, 2024, and published to the Canadian Legal Information Institute on March 25, 2024.

The summary explains that on or about Oct. 31, 2019, a dog owner, identified only as RS, purchased flea treatments for his two dogs, Nuisance and Tuggs, from the Belleville Animal Hospital (BAH). The report explains that RS had not previously been a client of Dr. Burns or BAH, and Dr. Burns did not meet RS when they purchased Advantix from the vet’s auxiliary.

“Dr. Burns’ auxiliary did not obtain or record the weights of the dogs prior to dispensing Advantix to RS,” reads the report. “Dr. Burns’ records do not specify what form of Advantix was sold to RS, or what form or quantity each dog was to receive. Further, Dr. Burns’ records are internally inconsistent in terms of describing the Advantix products that were dispensed.”

After the Advantix was administered, Nuisance became sick. Dr. Burns’ records indicate that on or about November 4, 2019, his auxiliary administered “Dex 2 – 1 ml” (presumably dexamethasone) and Barium to Nuisance. However, Dr. Burns had not examined Nuisance before these drugs were administered, the report states.

RS returned to BAH around November 5, 2019. The dog’s health continued to worsen, and Dr. Burns advised RS that Nuisance was experiencing kidney failure. RS expressed a wish for the dog to be euthanized, but was pursuaded by the vet to continue treatment.

“On or about November 8, 2019, Nuisance was still not improving,” reads the report. “RS again asked that Nuisance be euthanized and arrangements were made for this to be done at 2 p.m. that day. However, Nuisance passed away prior to the euthanasia being performed.”

Despite agreeing to pay only for the dog’s cremation and nothing else, RS received an invoice from BAH in the amount of approximately $836.20 for various veterinary services rendered at BAH. The report says RS attempted to communicate with Dr. Burns on six occasions to discuss the invoice but was unable to reach him.

The allegations of professional misconduct include:

  • Dr. Burns’ auxiliary sold Advantix products to RS in the absence of a veterinary-client-patient relationship;
  • he failed to supervise an auxiliary with respect to the dispensing of a medication;
  • Dr. Burns’ auxiliary failed to take or record the weight of RS’s dogs prior to dispensing a pesticide/parasiticide;
  • he failed to keep records of the sale of Advantix;
  • he failed to report a possible adverse event to the appropriate drug company;
  • Dr. Burns’ auxiliary administered dexamethasone and Barium without Dr. Burns first assessing or examining Nuisance, in the absence of a veterinary-client-patient relationship and/or without supervision;
  • there was no basis for Dr. Burns’ auxiliary to administer either dexamethasone or Barium;
  • he charged RS approximately $836.20 for treatment rendered to Nuisance without providing an estimate or obtaining authorization from RS;
  • he failed to make himself available to RS after rendering the aforesaid invoice; and,
  • he failed to maintain proper records including failing to record any examination, assessment or plan in relation to Nuisance.

Read the full list here.

Dr. Burns pleaded guilty to these allegations professional misconduct, and his plea was accepted by the discipline committee.

The College of Veterinarians of Ontario and Dr. Burns agreed on disciplinary action, which included a public reprimand; a two month suspension of his license to practice; a $5,000 fine; and certain conditions imposed on his license to practice. More details can be found here.

The final decision was signed and dated on Feb. 8, 2024.

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