The Veterinary Nurse Disciplinary Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has requested that a London-based veterinary nurse be removed from the Register after he was found guilty of a number of charges relating to unlawful administration and possession of veterinary medicines and acting dishonestly when making and deleting an entry in clinical records relating to his own dog.

The hearing for Paul Chaney took place on Monday 2 and Tuesday 3 November 2020 with a total of seven charges against him. These were:
  1. Between 7pm on 6 April 2018 and 8am on 7 April 2018, he unlawfully administered Butorphanol to a dog;
  2. Between 6 April 2018 and 1 August 2018, he failed to record the administration of this medicine in the dog’s clinical records;
  3. On or around 31 July 2018, he was in unlawful possession of Trazadone;
  4. On or around 31 July 2018, he was in unlawful possession of Metacam;
  5. Between 27 July 2018 and 1 August 2018, he stole Trazadone and Metacam from the practice for which he was working in Hampstead, London;
  6. Between 27 July and 4 August 2018 he falsely made entries into the clinical records of his own dog in the name of a veterinary surgeon colleague to the effect that the colleague had examined his dog in the early hours of 28 July 2018; and also made, and subsequently deleted, entries to the effect that Metacam had been prescribed for the dog;
  7. That his conduct relating to charge 6 was dishonest and misleading.

The Committee heard that Mr Chaney’s conduct in relation to the first two charges were discovered when, in July 2018, the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), accompanied by police officers, executed a warrant upon the property where Mr Chaney lived with two others for unrelated matters. However, during the course of the search, police officers found Metacam and Trazadone (both prescription-only veterinary medicines) in Mr Chaney’s bedroom which did not seem to have a prescription and so Defra officers launched an investigation. During the course of this investigation, a Defra investigator was also provided with a video and messages that indicated Mr Chaney had unlawfully administered Butorphanol (a prescription-only veterinary medicine) to a Husky dog in frustration with the animal as it was being too noisy.

The Committee heard that, in November 2018, Mr Chaney accepted a police caution in relation to the matters the subject of charges 1, 3 and 4. Furthermore it also heard that, in relation to charges 5 and 6, Mr Chaney, following the police attending his property and finding the medicines, went on to create false records at the practice in relation to the examination of his dog in order to justify his unlawful possession of the drugs.

In relation to the facts of charges 1 to 6, the Committee, having taken into account the witness statements provided to support the allegations made by the College, as well as Mr Chaney’s own admissions made prior to and during the hearing, found these all proven.

In relation to charge 7, which alleged that Mr Chaney’s action in relation to his own dog’s clinical records were dishonest and/or misleading, while Mr Chaney admitted that his actions were misleading, he denied that he had been acting dishonestly. Mr Chaney’s counsel argued that Mr Chaney’s actions were not dishonest because there was no financial gain from his conduct. The Committee, however, did not accept this argument and found Mr Chaney to have acted dishonestly when he altered the clinical records relating to his own dog.

The Committee then went on to consider if the charges, taken both individually and in totality, amounted to disgraceful conduct in a professional capacity. .

Judith Way, chairing the Committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “The Committee had no doubt that administering a sedative to an animal that required prescription by a veterinary surgeon and then failing to record it in the clinical record with the resultant risk to the animal’s welfare due to lack of knowledge of the administration fell far below the expected standard (charges 1 and 2).

“The Committee also considered that possession of prescription only medicines by a registered veterinary nurse, without the sanction of law, having stolen the same from a practice also fell far below the expected standard (charges 3, 4 and 5).

“The Committee also considered that tampering with the clinical record for a dog, in order to create a misleading impression and in doing so dishonestly, was conduct which fell far below the expected standard.

“Taken as a whole, the Committee considered that Mr Chaney’s conduct had fallen far below the expected standard.”

Accordingly, the Committee found him guilty of disgraceful conduct in a professional capacity in relation to all seven charges.

It next went on to consider what sanction, if any, to impose taking into account the aggravating and mitigating factors.

In considering the aggravating factors, the Committee took into account that Mr Chaney’s conduct had presented a risk of injury to the animal and that the conduct in charges 1, 3, 4 and 5 was pre-meditated. Furthermore, Mr Chaney’s conduct involved a breach of trust in relation to both the practice where he was employed and the owner of the Husky and was also an abuse of position in gaining access to and stealing medication. Further, because the charges related to two separate incidents, there was a common thread in Mr Chaney disregarding rules on veterinary medicines.

In mitigation, the Committee considered that Mr Chaney had reflected on and gained some insight into his behaviour, and acknowledged he had made admissions at the outset of the hearing, including apologising for and showing regret about aspects of his conduct. However, the Committee did not believe he had addressed his understanding of the effect that this conduct had on the risk to animals, the standards of the profession or the maintenance of public confidence in the profession. In mitigation the Committee also considered a number of positive character references and his previous good character.

Speaking about the sanction Judith Way added: “The Committee determined that it would not be sufficient in the circumstances of the case, to satisfy the public interest to suspend the Respondent’s registration. In its view this case involved a serious departure from identified professional standards. The disregard had been deliberate, in relation to ignoring legislation in respect of prescription-only medication and dishonesty in stealing medication.

“There was evidence of attitudinal issues in relation to that behaviour and insufficient evidence of the development of insight. The dishonesty in relation to the clinical record relating to dog O [his own dog] had been an attempt to conceal earlier dishonesty relating to the theft of the medication. In administering the Butorphanol to dog L [the Husky], Mr Chaney had been putting his own interests in quieting the dog ahead of the dog’s interests, which would have required checking with a veterinary surgeon as to appropriate steps.

“The Committee acknowledged that, by directing removal, there would likely be professional reputational damage to Mr Chaney and possible financial loss. However, in the view of the Committee the requirements of the public interest outweighed these factors.”

Accordingly, the Registrar of the RCVS was directed to remove Mr Chaney’s name from the Register of Veterinary Nurses.