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Budget Vets response to The Ferret on ITV

Budget Vets response to The Ferret on ITV

Budget Vets is a RCVS accredited veterinary care provider with five branches across south east Wales. Since opening in 2005, Budget Vets now welcomes 5,000 pets through its doors each month and boasts a 99.7% satisfaction rate.

However, if one of Budget Vets' valued clients wishes to raise a complaint, we accept and process it with the upmost concern and respect to ensure the client's happiness.

Budget Vets is a RCVS accredited veterinary care provider with five branches across south east Wales. Since opening in 2005, Budget Vets now welcomes 5,000 pets through its doors each month and boasts a 99.7% satisfaction rate. However, if one of Budget Vets' valued clients wishes to raise a complaint, we accept and process it with the upmost concern and respect to ensure the client's happiness.

Unfortunately, our client, Mr Shepherd, has seen reason to raise such a complaint due a suture reaction experienced by one of his two cats, after it was spayed by Budget Vets, and the sexing of his cats. We are sorry for any concerns held by Mr Shepherd and, as we do not wish for any client to feel they have been treated unfairly, Budget Vets has covered the cost of the cat's spaying. We have also offered to reimburse Mr Shepherd for the veterinary costs incurred through attending a second vets and his travel expenses. However, he has declined to accept this.

In terms of Mr Shepherd's complaint, Budget Vets cannot accept liability for the suture reaction experienced by his cat, as this is an uncommon reaction to a standard practice suture material that can occur during any surgical procedure. We also cannot accept responsibility for Mr Shepherd's two cats being male and female, which are the sexes he had chosen on purchase and were sexed correctly on 17th January after his initial complaint. 

Budget Vets does have a sexing policy that is employed by all veterinary staff - that animals are always sexed on their first visit to Budget Vets, no matter what the procedure, to ensure the sex is confirmed correctly. However, due to the complaint, we have repeated staff training to reiterate the importance of this policy and documenting any discrepancies in the animal's sex.

Budget Vets is also still willing to cover Mr Shepherd's costs and we have also confirmed that we will match those costs as a donation to Comic Relief's Red Nose Day appeal.

Budget Vets would like to wish Mr Shepherd and his cats all the very best for the future, and look forward to rectifying any remaining issues. Budget Vets would also have been willing to appear on The Ferret, but, in light of the complicated and lengthy nature of this matter, felt a full written statement would better express the following facts.

Mr Shepherd first attended Budget Vets on the 18 January 2012. He booked in a female cat, named Holly, to have her first vaccinations. We note that this is when Mr Shepherd confirmed the 1st cat was sexed as a female; the practice protocol would be to record the sex in the clinical notes if it was found to be incorrect. However, nothing was recorded by the vet to indicate this was the case. A copy of those notes has been provided as evidence of this. The veterinary surgeon that saw Mr Shepherd on his first and second visit has now left the practice and, as such, Budget Vets cannot categorically confirm the conversations had by the vet and Mr Shepherd.

On the 26 September 2012, some 9 months since vaccinating his 1st cat, Mr Shepherd attended the practice with a 2ndmale cat for its first vaccinations (at this time Mr Shepherd was of the understanding that he already had a female cat, inferring that Mr Shepherd did not have concerns with mating or the need for spaying/ castrating in the future). This cat was seen by a different veterinary surgeon and in that appointment, contrary to Mr Shepherd understands, the 2nd cat was confirmed to be female as opposed to male. The clinical notes of that appointment have also been provided in evidence and clearly identify in the records that the animal had been sexed by the owner or seller incorrectly. The 2nd cat was named, Ivy.

On the 23rd October 2012, both cats visited the practice again; Holly, the 1st cat, for a microchip, flea and worm treatment and Ivy, the 2nd cat, for its 2nd vaccine and also the microchip, worm and flea treatment.

It was not until the 17th January 2013, a year after Mr Shepherd had brought the first cat to the practice, that he contacted Budget Vets to say that one cat had been mounting the other cat and he wanted them sexed. Mr Shepherd at this point made an initial complaint to an auxiliary nurse, who promptly passed the complaint on to the supervisor of the branch.

On the same day, Mr Shepherd brought both cats back to the vets and at this appointment the first cat, Holly, was sexed and confirmed as male. The cat's name was then changed to Ollie and the practice system was updated accordingly. Mr Shepherd was then left with two cats – one male and one female – as he had originally thought was the case when he purchased his second cat.

The veterinary surgeon, who saw the cats on this day, pointed out that there was a possibility, due to the mounting witnessed by Mr Shepherd, that Ivy could have developed a pregnancy. However, a pregnancy was never confirmed by Budget Vets at this point.

As Mr Shepherd had made a complaint regarding the sexing of his cats, Budget Vets offered to neuter both cats free of charge. He agreed and the operations subsequently took place on the 21st January 2013, when both cats were admitted and the practice terms and conditions were signed.

Budget Vets' terms and conditions, a copy of which can be produced, clearly state that “in the unlikely event of post neutering or surgical complications, an appointment should be made at one of Budget Vets' surgeries or our designated emergency clinics. Any fees incurred by transferring to another practice will not be reimbursed.”

The clinical notes following both of the operations confirmed that “both cats were neutered, no concerns were noted with either cat during their operations, both went routinely, and Ivy was not pregnant at time of spay.” A copy of those notes has also been produced in evidence. Both cats were discharged in the afternoon and post-op care forms were completed.

In the two days following, Mr Shepherd had some post-op worries with Ivy and made contact with Budget Vets to discuss these. On the 23rd January 2013, Mr Shepherd came back into the vets and a senior veterinary surgeon, with 5 years practice experience, examined the cat. The cat did not pose a concern to the vet and no abnormalities were found with either cat on post-op examination. A copy of the statement made by the veterinary surgeon has been produced as evidence. These details are also noted in the clinical history.

At this time, Mr Shepherd felt the buster collar worn by Ivy was an issue and as such, after receiving advice to the contrary, signed a buster collar refusal form to accept the risks of not keeping a buster collar on a cat after surgery as this can lead to complications, such as infection from the cat licking the wound or even removing the stitches themselves. Mr Shepherd made an appointment with another veterinary practice following his post-op appointment, but Mr Shepherd failed to attend that appointment. Budget Vets heard nothing further from Mr Shepherd.

On the 31st January 2013, over a week later, Mr Shepherd then attended the second veterinary practice to have the Ivy’s stitches removed, in the full knowledge that he would be responsible for the cost as it was a different practice to Budget Vets.

It was at this appointment that the vet identified inflammation at the operation site on Ivy, and decided further investigation was required. The findings showed that Ivy had a reaction to the suture material. A suture reaction is uncommon, but is something that can occur with any surgery and is not necessarily a fault of the surgery at Budget Vets. A copy of the second vet’s clinical notes has been produced as evidence.

The second vet went on to explain to Mr Shepherd that these things can occur after surgery and could not be identified as anyone’s “fault”. At this time, the second veterinary practice confirmed that they could not do the operation free of charge and advised that, if Mr Shepherd wanted the operation at no cost, he should discuss this with Budget Vets. Mr Shepherd refused to take this action. Subsequently, the second vet operated on Ivy on the 1st February 2013 and changed her stitches to an alternative suture material.

Mr Shepherd then contacted the practice manager at Budget Vets on the 3rd February 2013 to make a formal complaint and requested a meeting to discuss his complaint. A meeting was held and an investigation into the matter commenced. The complaint is on-going and has been investigated thoroughly to ensure the best outcome is obtained for all. The practice also notified their insurers, who also made contact with Mr Shepherd to confirm that his complaint is being reviewed. Mr Shepherd has unfortunately since contacted The Ferret and we find ourselves in this position before the outcome of the complaint could be privately resolved between both parties.