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Animal Vets

So one day, this Dalmatian decided to take advantage of the open gate and go for a walk. Luckily, he was spotted about two blocks away…

And then there was this bloke who asked his lawyer neighbour to care for his Maine Coon kitty over the weekend. ‘Yes, if you insist, we can draw up a contract,’ he said. ‘But you want to insert some clause about … what?’

Meanwhile, when the new little fishy first arrived in the big pond, he could not help being a bit koi…

No, these are not my jokes. The internet seems to be drowning under veterinarian humour,1 and of course it’s cute, because – generally speaking – humans love animals and particularly our pets.

Which is why the Veterinary and Para-Veterinary Professions Act of 19822 is an important statute in the lives of all the doggies and kitties out there. It falls under the authority of the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries but is administered on a day-to-day basis by the South African Veterinarian Council. The Council appoints a Registrar who, without being dogmatic, caters for all needs of the profession. Apparently, one past Registrar had a mousetache.

A. Registration

  1. From time to time, the Minister (on recommendation of the Council) prescribes the degrees, diplomas and certificates required for people to register in the various veterinary and para-veterinary professions.3 It is an offence to practise as a vet, or para-vet, unless registered in terms of the Act.4 ‘Practise’ includes:
    • supplying or selling any veterinary medicine in connection with an animal;56
    • holding oneself out as, or purporting to be, a person practising a veterinary profession;7
    • purporting to be registered in terms of the Act;8
    • using a designation reserved for persons who are registered;9 and
    • performing any act which has as its purpose diagnosing, treating or preventing any pathological condition in an animal, or operating on an animal.10
  2. The registration may be subject to conditions set by the Council, relating to the kind of work to be performed, and requirements to be complied with in practice.11 It is an offence to contravene any such conditions.12

  3. It is an offence to procure registration, or any certificate, receipt, approval or other document issued under the Act (whether for yourself or any other person) by means of an oral or written false or misleading statement.13

  4. There is a wide variety of specialists in the veterinarian field: from surgeons and radiologists to ‘Specialist Practitioners’ for pigs, cattle, poultry, game and so on. Each has a particular designation, with a particular necessary qualification. You must be registered in respect of the particular field to practise in that field, and to use the particular designation, and it is an offence to contravene these requirements by doing otherwise.14

  5. As an employer, you may not cause any person to perform work, or render services which he may not perform in terms of Rules set by the Council, and for which he is not registered.15 It is an offence to contravene this prohibition.16

  6. In fact, the Council can require you, as an employer, to send to it the service contract of any such employee, and it is a crime not to do so.17

  7. It is an offence to impersonate any person registered in terms of the Act.18

  8. Students generally think they are immune from having to behave lawfully. Well, here’s a surprise. It is a criminal offence to be a veterinary (or para-veterinary) student without being registered in terms of the Act.19

  9. In practice, it is permitted to display (or state) only the particulars of the degree, diploma and certificate which are recorded in your name in the register.20

  10. If your registration is terminated (for any reason) you must return your certificate of registration to the Council within 30 days of the notice of termination from the Registrar.21 It is a crime not to do so.22

  11. It is an offence to charge for any service other than those for which you are registered to perform, according to your particular professional category.

  12. It is a crime to supply, to any person who is not registered in terms of the Act, any instrument or appliance which can primarily be used for veterinary or para-veterinary services, knowing that it will be used to render such services for gain.23

  13. It is a crime to charge or recover remuneration in respect of the rendering of any service which, in terms of the rules, is designated specially for a veterinary professional, or a para-veterinary professional, if you are not registered (or deemed to be registered) in terms of the Act to practise the profession concerned.24

B. Certificates and other documents

  1. It is an offence to procure any certificate, receipt, approval or other document by a false or misleading statement.25

  2. It is an offence to make an unauthorised entry in, or addition or alteration to, or a removal from a register (or an extract thereof) or any certificate, receipt, approval or other document issued under the Act.26

  3. No one may destroy, damage or render illegible any entry in the Register and it is a criminal offence to do so.27

  4. It is even a criminal offence to destroy, damage or render illegible any certificate, receipt, approval or other document issued in terms of the Act, without the permission of the holder.28

  5. If you forge any such document, it is a criminal offence.29

  6. If you use for ‘official’ purposes any forged document, it is an offence.

C. Inquiries and the Council

The Council can hold inquiries into the conduct of any person registered in terms of the Act – whether as a result of a complaint lodged by a member of the public, or of its own accord.

  1. It is an offence if:
    • you have been summoned to appear at the inquiry and fail to do so;30
    • you refuse to be sworn or make an affirmation as a witness;31
    • you refuse, or fail to answer any question lawfully put to you;32 and
    • you refuse, or fail to produce any book, document or record you were called upon to produce.33
  2. It is, of course, a criminal offence to give false evidence.34

  3. The Council can take disciplinary measures consequent upon its findings at an inquiry. These include suspending the professional registration, or imposing conditions and restrictions upon continued practice. It is a criminal offence not to comply with any such measure set by the Council.35

  4. It is a crime to hinder or obstruct any member of the Council in the performance of his functions or exercise of powers in terms of the Act.36

  5. Never mind students, even universities can commit offences. The Council has the power to require universities (and other institutions) granting degrees, diplomas or certificates for the veterinary or para-veterinary professions to furnish full particulars of their courses, the minimum age and general standard of education required of students, etc.37 It is an offence to fail to comply with any request in this regard.38

  6. Each university and educational institution granting degrees, diplomas (etc.) must annually furnish the Council with the prescribed particulars relating to the students who are enrolled there for such degrees, diplomas or certificates. It is an offence not to do so.

  7. The Council can also designate someone to be present when examinations are conducted. It is an offence to:39
    • prevent such a person from entering the premises for such purposes; and
    • fail or refuse to give him such reasonable assistance as he requires.
  1. In these cases, see (with a little adaptation) https://www.punoftheday.com s.v. ‘Puns about Nature’ (Animals). The one about the koi, by the way, is attributed to Mouldy Moulder of Underberg, KZN. Sounds like it’s an old one. 

  2. As amended; the latest amendment was effected by Act 16 of 2012. 

  3. These are any professions which have as an object (in each case) the rendering of services supplementing the services of a veterinarian. This includes nurses, technologists, laboratory technologists and health technicians – all of the veterinary or animal sort. 

  4. Section 41(1)(f) read with section 23(1). 

  5. Section 23(2)(a)(i). 

  6. This does not apply to registered pharmacists. 

  7. Section 41(1)(f) read with section 23(2)(b). 

  8. Section 41(1)(f) read with section 23(2)(b). 

  9. Section 23(2)(c). 

  10. Section 23(2)(d). 

  11. Section 25(3). 

  12. Section 41(1)(o). 

  13. Section 41(1)(a). 

  14. Section 29(2) read with Section 41(1)(f). 

  15. Section 36(1). 

  16. Section 41(1)(f). 

  17. Section 41(f) read with section 36(2). 

  18. Section 41(1)(e). 

  19. Section 41(1)(n). 

  20. Section 41(1)(q) read with section 25(8). 

  21. Section 28(3). 

  22. Section 41(1)(q). 

  23. Section 41(1)(r). 

  24. Section 41(1)(q) read with section 35. 

  25. Section 41(1)(a). 

  26. Section 41(1)(b). 

  27. Section 41(1)(c). 

  28. Section 41(1)(c). 

  29. Section 41(1)(d). 

  30. Section 41(1)(h). 

  31. Section 41(1)(g). 

  32. Section 41(1)(g). 

  33. Section 41(1)(g). 

  34. Section 32(8). 

  35. Section 41(1)(i) read with section 33(1)(b) and (c). 

  36. Section 41(1)(k). 

  37. Section 20(2)(a)(ii). 

  38. Section 41(1)(l). 

  39. Section 41(1)(m).