Q: Our Labrador was violently sick on a weekend and we took him to an emergency clinic, as per the recorded message on our vet’s out of hours phone. He was prescribed medication, and we took him home. He continued being ill in the night and wouldn’t drink, so we took him back next morning. They took a blood sample and put him on a drip. They later called and said he was vomiting blood, so they needed to operate and open his stomach. We consented but the operation showed nothing wrong. Meanwhile friends told us of a nationwide bug affecting dogs, something the vet never mentioned. Our dog recovered quickly but we ended up with a bill for over £4,000 for treatment and an unnecessary operation. Could we make a claim against the vet?
A: The Consumer Rights Act provides protection for anyone purchasing goods or a service. The vet you saw was providing a service and therefore must comply with the Consumer Rights Act. Vets must also adhere to a Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) professional code of conduct. If they do not act with the professional skill and care expected you could bring a claim against them.
If you can prove that there was a nationwide canine bug going around at the time your dog was ill, it would not be unreasonable for you to point this out and request at least a partial refund of what they charged you, within 14 days. If this fails to bring a result you could make a complaint to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons which regulates vets under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, to protect the public interest and to safeguard animal health and welfare. Negligence is not just about giving poor advice or being confined to things that have been done, it can also occur because of missing advice or inaction.
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