Many concerns about veterinarians and other professionals result from a breakdown in communication. If you have concerns about a veterinarian, the Board recommends first discussing the matter with the veterinarian, practice manager or clinic.
It may be helpful to either:
- make a note of the issues and points you want to talk about
- write to the practice outlining your concerns.
Search the register to find details of registered veterinarians.
Other considerations before making a complaint include:
- The veterinary management of an animal for the same problem may differ between veterinarians. There are often different veterinary management options for a problem and the choice of 1 option over another is at the veterinarian’s discretion and often dependent upon their experience, knowledge and skill.
- Making a diagnosis can be difficult. Symptoms, physical examination findings, tests and response to treatment all assist in reaching a diagnosis. As various conditions and diseases progress, further symptoms can develop, and physical examination findings and test results, which can assist in reaching a diagnosis, can change. A delayed, missed or incorrect diagnosis is not necessarily professional misconduct.
- Just as in human medicine, outcomes for animals cannot be guaranteed and may be upsetting for both the owner and veterinarian.
The Board's role
The Veterinary Surgeons Board Queensland investigates formal complaints about the professional conduct of veterinary practitioners registered in Queensland.
All eligible complaints lodged with the Board are thoroughly assessed. The Board strives to ensure all parties are treated fairly and the assessment process is impartial and transparent.
The Board can make assessment on concerns about individual veterinarians related to:
- breaches of professional standards
- concerns about the competence of a veterinarian
- health issues that may affect a veterinarian's ability to work
- incidents of non-veterinarians claiming to be veterinarians or performing acts of veterinary science.
The Board is generally unable to assist with:
- concerns associated with veterinary fees or compensation—contact the Office of Fair Trading about these issues
- historic matters—complaints older than 3 years are hard to investigate
- concerns about non-veterinary practice staff
- anonymous or verbal complaints
- requests to obtain medical records—medical records remain the property of the treating veterinarian or clinic.
Code of professional conduct
Veterinarians are expected to abide by the code of professional conduct.
While the Board considers breaches of the professional code of conduct when assessing complaints against veterinarians, concerns raised about the code of conduct in itself do not meet the threshold for professional misconduct under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1936.
Making a complaint
Once the information provided has been reviewed, the Board may:
- redirect the complaint if it is not within the Board's jurisdiction
- institute further investigations
- gather further evidence
- dismiss the complaint if there is insufficient evidence or no evidence of misconduct.
Where there is evidence of misconduct, the Board may:
- initiate misconduct proceedings against the veterinarian
- refer the matter to the independent Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
View a flowchart outlining the Board's complaints-handling process. You may be contacted by VSBQ staff during the process to provide further information or relevant documentation.
The Board's decision is based on the information it receives and how it relates to the assessment of the veterinarian's management of the case. In cases where there is contention between the parties, the Board may not be able to give more weight to one version of events over another.
The Board must collect and analyse information following legislated processes, which are fair to both parties. This means it may take many months to reach an outcome. You will be notified in writing of the outcome at the conclusion of the process.
There is no legislated provision of appealing the Board's decision. However, once a decision is made, a complainant has 28 days in which to provide any information that was not previously provided for the Board's consideration.
The Board will only use and disclose the personal information given in the lodgement of a complaint for the purpose of conducting an assessment of the complaint. The information will not be disclosed to any other parties unless authorised or required by law in accordance with the Information Privacy Act 2009.
In accordance with the principles of the Act, the Board cannot provide details of the disciplinary action taken if there is a finding of professional misconduct against a veterinarian.
Concerns about the process
Concerns about the process undertaken by the Board in its investigation and assessment of a complaint should be directed to the Queensland Ombudsman.
- The offence provisions of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1936 are listed in part 4B of the Act. The meaning of the term 'professional misconduct' is not limited in the Act but Section 22F provides a list of examples
- Consumer rights: a guide for veterinarians—part 1
- Consumer rights: a guide for veterinarians—part 2
- Complaints process—for veterinarians
Last updated: 19 Jul 2023