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LCQ12: Complaints about veterinary services

    Following is a question by the Hon James To and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (February 27):


    Regarding veterinary surgeons and their services, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  whether it has assessed the reasons why only 30 to 50 complaints were received by the Veterinary Surgeons Board (VSB) in each of the past five years; if it has, whether such reasons include the public being generally unaware of the channels for lodging complaints about veterinary services; if so, whether the Government will consider stepping up the publicity for VSB's function in dealing with complaints;

(b)  of the number of veterinary surgeons convicted in the past five years of contravening the Veterinary Surgeons Registration Ordinance (Cap.529), with a breakdown by offences and penalties imposed on them;

(c)  of the authority currently responsible for dealing with complaints about unlicensed veterinary services; in the past five years, the number of such complaints received by the authority, the number of substantiated cases, and the penalties imposed on the persons concerned; and

(d)  whether it knows the number of cases heard by various levels of courts in each of the past five years in which civil remedies against veterinary surgeons were sought, as well as the respective numbers of successful cases among them?


Madam President,

    The Veterinary Surgeons Board (VSB) is a statutory body established under the Veterinary Surgeons Registration Ordinance (the Ordinance) (Cap.529) for the regulation of the practice of veterinary surgeons in Hong Kong, including the registration of veterinary surgeons and the disciplinary control of the professional activities of registered veterinary surgeons. Our reply to the four parts of the question is as follows:

(a)  In the past five years, the VSB received a total of 237 complaints related to veterinary services, i.e. an average of 48 complaints a year.

    According to the information provided by the VSB, majority of the complaints received were submitted direct to the VSB by members of the public, with a few referred by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or the Consumer Council. It shows that members of the public have a good understanding about VSB's role as an avenue of complaint about veterinary services. When compared to the relevant number of complaints received by the statutory bodies governing other medical professions, the number of complaints against veterinary surgeons is relatively lower. This is mainly because there are comparatively less registered veterinary surgeons than other medical professionals. At present, there are a total of 411 registered veterinary surgeons in Hong Kong.

    To publicise the functions of the VSB, the VSB has put up a dedicated website where information about how to make a complaint about veterinary services is available. Enquiries about the work and related services of the VSB can also be made through the 1823 Citizen's Easy Link.

    In addition, disciplinary inquiries against registered veterinary surgeons are held in public. If veterinary surgeons are found to have committed a disciplinary offence, outcome of the inquiries will be published in newspapers and the Gazette.

(b)  In the past five years, a total of 10 registered veterinary surgeons were found to have contravened the Ordinance. Details of the contraventions and penalties are set out at Annex I.

(c)  Section 16 of the Ordinance prohibits any person to practise when not registered or not in possession of a valid practising certificate. Upon receipt of complaints on illegal veterinary practice, the VSB will refer them to the Police. In the past five years, the VSB has referred a total of 14 complaints to the Police.

    Of these cases, two persons were prosecuted. One was sentenced to 160 hours of community service by the court whereas the other was acquitted. As for the other 12 cases, investigation revealed that no illegal provision of veterinary services was involved.

(d)  The Judiciary does not maintain any statistics on the number of cases heard by various levels of courts in which civil remedies against veterinary surgeons were sought, nor the respective numbers of cases held in favour of the complainant.

Ends/Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Issued at HKT 14:01


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