Updating Act 2005
The 2005 Act is intended to update and replace the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1931, as amended by the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1952 and the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1960. These Acts are the legislation under which the veterinary profession operates as a self-governing health profession. The environment in which the profession operates in this country has changed significantly by virtue of membership of the European Union, advances in technology and an increasing emphasis on food safety and animal welfare.
Under previous legislation, there is a narrow range of sanctions for disciplinary cases, there are certain limitations on registration of qualified veterinarians and specialisation within the profession and veterinary nursing, are not recognised under current arrangements. Moreover, there is no statutory basis for ensuring that veterinarians keep themselves up to date in areas relating to the profession or that the premises used for the practice of veterinary medicine (including surgery) meet minimum standards.
There is also the desirability of providing for greater accountability and transparency in the regulation of the profession in line with the broad thrust of current regulatory practice. For the foregoing reasons the Minister considers that the existing Acts should be replaced by a new, comprehensive measure. In broad terms, the Act provides for the following (details of the provisions on a section by section basis are outlined below):
- broader membership of the Veterinary Council to reflect interests such as education, consumers and food safety and achieve a better balance as between veterinarians and others;
- a new and expanded role for the Council in the areas of education and training, standards for veterinary premises, food safety and public health;
- wider basis on which registration may be granted and provide for registration for specialists in particular areas of veterinary medicine;
- the establishment of standards for continuing professional education, compliance with which would be a pre-requisite for retention on the register;
- wider basis for imposition of sanctions on members of the profession;
- a new model for dealing with complaints regarding fitness to practise;
- for statutory recognition of veterinary nurses;
- the establishment and monitoring of standards of veterinary premises;
- the Veterinary Council to be given certain investigative
The Minister appointed the establishment day of the Veterinary Council of Ireland (VCI). The ‘former Council’ was dissolved from the establishment day.
The 2005 Act provides for: —
- the transfer of all the property, rights, assets and liabilities of the 1931 Council to the VCI;
- the disposal of land by the VCI;
- the continuation of contracts entered into by the 1931 Council;
- the continuation of legal
Veterinary Council of Ireland
The VCI was established for the regulation of its business by the Council in accordance with rules set out in Schedule 2. The regulation of the practice of veterinary medicine in the State is the principal function of the VCI. The VCI regulates the practice of veterinary nursing if the Veterinary Nurses Board of Ireland is not set up.
Among the functions of the VCI will be:
- the registration of veterinary practitioners and, subject to Part 8, veterinary nurses;
- the establishment of procedures and criteria for registration;
- the setting of codes of professional conduct;
- the conduct of inquiries and imposition of sanctions;
- the reviewing of programmes of education;
- the mutual recognition of veterinary qualifications;
- specifying standards of veterinary
There is provision for the assignment of additional functions to the VCI by Ministerial Order. The Minister may give policy directions in writing to the VCI.
The 2005 Act provides for the composition of the Council, selection/nomination/election of Council members, timing/timescales for appointment and preliminary and operational arrangements. The Council is to consist of 17 members of whom 7 will be elected by registered veterinary practitioners. The remainder will consist of nominees of the Minister (4), the Minister for Education and Science (1), education bodies (2), the FSAI (1), the Director of Consumer Affairs (1) and a veterinary nurse.
There are detailed rules for the election of registered veterinary practitioners and nurses to be appointed by the Minister to be members of the VCI. The terms of office of the Council at 4 years.
The 2005 Act provides for the establishment of three obligatory Committees by the VCI. The Committees are:
- the Veterinary Training and Education Committee
- the Preliminary Investigation Committee and
- the Fitness to Practise Committee (section 72) and also
- and it provides for the establishment of other non-mandatory committees.
The expenses incurred by the VCI or by its members or committees shall be defrayed out of funds at the disposal of the VCI.
The Minster may issue directions to the Council and remove the Council by order in the event of its failure to comply with Ministerial directions and the discharge of its functions in the event of that occurrence.
The VCI appoints a chief executive officer who shall be known as the Registrar. Provision is also made in relation to the Registrar’s conditions of service, remuneration and arrangements to apply in the event of incapacity.
The 2005 Act provides for the appointment/terms of employment of members of the staff of the VCI by that body. There is a scheme of superannuation benefits including pensions for the staff including the Registrar of the VCI. The scheme or schemes shall be subject to the approval of the Minister and the consent of the Minister for Finance and shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.
The VCI establishes a register to be known as the Register of Veterinary Practitioners and for transitional arrangements regarding the former register. It is published of and there is public access to the Register.
The VCI may assign titles to distinctive branches or specialties in veterinary medicine for the convenience of the public and the profession.
The 2005 Act provided for continuation of registration of persons whose names appeared in the 1931 Register.
There are detailed rules for the registration of persons trained in the State. Provision is also made for court appeals. There is provision for the registration of and temporary provision of services by nationals of the EU, the European Economic Area and Switzerland in accordance with EU obligations. Detailed rules are set out in Schedule 3.
There are detailed rules for the registration of people who satisfy requisite criteria as regards training. There is provision for the limited registration of persons whose services are required for disease eradication or for education programmes.
The VCI may recognise veterinary specialities for inclusion in a dedicated part of the Register and for registration and de-registration mechanisms. A registered person may apply for deregistration, but such device may not be used to frustrate fitness to practice proceedings.
There is provision for the recording an individual’s extra qualifications in the Register.
VCI may make regulations to facilitate the registration process.
Practice of Veterinary Medicine
There is a legal definition of the practice of veterinary medicine. It is an offence for a non-registered person to engage in the practice of veterinary medicine or to use of reserved title by a non-registered person. Certain limited exceptions to this general rule are provided for. Bodies corporate are precluded from the practice of veterinary medicine.
There provision for emergency treatment of an animal by a registered person without the consent of the owner of the animal. It also enables the treatment of animals by non-registered persons in emergencies and by farmers in accordance with practice established under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1931.
There are provisions to prevent misuse of titles by registered persons.
It is an offence for a registered person to employ a non-registered person to practice veterinary medicine on the former’s behalf. A person shall not charge for veterinary services carried on other than in compliance with this legislation.
The Minister, following consultation with the VCI, make regulations to provide that a person who is not a registered person may carry out a very limited number of defined procedures that come within the definition of the practice of veterinary medicine. It is an offence to carry out a procedure without adherence to conditions specified in the regulations.
Penalties for offences
The penalties are:
- a maximum fine of €3,000 and/or imprisonment for a maximum of 6 months on summary conviction;
- a maximum fine of €130,000 and/or imprisonment for a maximum of 5 years on conviction of a first offence on indictment;
- a maximum fine of €320,000 and/or imprisonment for a maximum of 10 years on conviction of a second or subsequent offence on indictment.
The court is enabled to order the culprit to pay the prosecution costs and expenses.
Veterinary Education and Training
The VCI is to set up a Veterinary Education and Training Committee to be known as the Education Committee and also designates the make-up of this Committee. Schedule 4 also refers.
The Education Committee is given the general remit of advising the VCI in relation to education and training. The range of functions of the Committee are set out in detail, particularly the obligation to make recommendations to the VCI on programmes of education in the State required for recognition, for further education, standards for recognition of qualifications obtained outside the State, veterinary specialities meriting recognition, and the knowledge and skill required for limited registration.
There are mechanisms for recognition of courses of education required for registration and for recognition of courses necessary for continued registration. Provision is also made for consultation procedures and for appeal procedures by affected providers. There is disclosure of information or interests provisions in relation to certain reports, recommendations and approvals arising under this Part.
Fitness to Practise
There is a Preliminary Investigation Committee. Schedule 4 refers. The Act provides for the establishment and makeup of a Fitness to Practise Committee. External participation is provided for in that the chairperson of the Committee shall be either a practising solicitor or a barrister.
The Preliminary Investigation Committee and the Fitness to Practise Committee were established by the VCI. The period of office of the aforesaid Committees at 4 years. Provision is also made for the completion of Committee proceedings that may not have been finalised at the expiry of the period of office of the relevant Committee.
The are detailed rules on the consideration of an application for an inquiry in relation to fitness to practise of a registered person made by the VCI or another applicant. In particular, it provides that the Preliminary Investigation Committee shall examine properly presented applications and make decisions on whether inquiries should proceed.
Provision is made for procedures to be followed where the Committee is unable to reach decisions within a defined time limit. While the Council can overrule the Committee in cases where it proposed that inquiries should not proceed, it cannot do so otherwise.
There are detailed rules for the processing of decisions reached by the Preliminary Investigation Committee or, in certain circumstances, the VCI in relation to an application for an inquiry. Provision is also made for appeal by the applicant for an enquiry to the Circuit Court in the case of a decision not to proceed with an inquiry.
There are detailed rules for the holding and conduct of a substantive inquiry by the Fitness to Practise Committee. For the purposes of an inquiry the Committee shall have the powers, rights and privileges of the High Court or a judge of the High Court in relation to the enforcement of attendance of witnesses and their examination and the production of documents. The Committee shall be comprised of equal representation by veterinarians and nonveterinarians (2 each) and an external chair nominated by either the Law Society or the Bar Council.
The Fitness to Practise Committee shall make a report to the VCI following its inquiry and shall in particular state its opinion as to the professional misconduct or unfitness to practise of the registered person in question. The Registrar of the VCI is required within 21 days of receipt to send a copy of the report to that registered person.
There is a wide range of sanctions to be applied by the VCI if the Fitness to Practise Committee finds that a person is not fit to practise in whole or in part or if a registered person has not paid the fees chargeable. The range of sanctions include removal or suspension from a register or attachment of conditions to retention on the register — the latter include obtaining medical attention, limits on the type of practice that can be engaged in, geographical or temporal limits, etc. Provision is also made for the VCI to advise, warn or censure a practitioner, or to require him/her to pay a contribution or forego fees up to €5,000, or to pay up to this amount towards the costs incurred in the investigation of the complaint. Provision is also made for appeal to the High Court or District Court.
The Council, where it thinks fit, may restore a person to the register, or lift a suspension, or remove conditions which it had imposed. The VCI may remove a person’s name from a Register if such person is convicted of an offence triable or deemed triable on indictment (tried in a higher court before a jury). Provision is also made for appeal to the High Court by the person the subject of the proposed removal.
Proceedings, communications and reports to or by the VCI and the Preliminary Investigation and Fitness to Practise Committees are protected by absolute privilege.
The VCI is to notify the Minister in relation inter alia to removals or suspension of persons from a Register.
A person to the register who had been removed for nonpayment of his/her registration fee may restored following payment of a special fee.
Members of the Preliminary Investigation Committee, or the Fitness to Practise Committee who had already participated in any stage of an investigation shall be precluded from participating in a subsequent stage of the investigation, or decision.
The annual report shall include information on removals, suspensions etc. from the Register.
Part 8 of the 2005 Act lists the procedures which a veterinary nurse may perform, including the limited range of functions which may be carried out other than in the presence of a veterinary practitioner.
The Minister, following consultation with the VCI and the Veterinary Nurses Board, may make regulations prescribing further procedures that may be performed by a veterinary nurse. Provision is also made for the laying of the regulations before each House of the Oireachtas.
The VCI may establish with the consent of the Minister of a Register of Veterinary Nurses not later than 2 years after establishment day
The VCI shall send a certificate of entry in the Register to the person concerned. Provision is also made for the extension of certain provisions of the Act to the Register of Veterinary Nurses.
There are detailed rules for the registration of a person as a veterinary nurse. Provision is also made for appeal to the High Court against a decision not to register a person. There is provisional registration of a person as a veterinary nurse on application in writing to the VCI. This applies in particular to persons who were practising as veterinary nurses at the time of publication of the Veterinary Practice Act and who undertake to participate in an approved course. Provision is made for appeal to the High Court by unsuccessful applicants. Provisional registration ceased 5 years after the establishment of the Register of Veterinary Nurses.
It is an offence for a veterinary nurse to perform a function reserved to veterinary practitioners, or for a person to practise as a veterinary nurse unless he or she is registered in the Register of Veterinary Nurses. It also provides penalties for offences.
Following consultation with the VCI, the Minister may make an order setting up the Veterinary Nurses Board of Ireland if he or she is satisfied that there is a sufficient number of veterinary nurses in the State to justify the establishment of a body to regulate veterinary nurses and the practice of veterinary medicine.
The Veterinary Nurses Board is to regulate, by standing orders or otherwise, the procedure and business of the Board. Provision is also made that Schedule 2 shall apply to the Board.
There is a provision for the transfer of functions relating to veterinary nursing from the VCI to the Veterinary Nurses Board on the establishment of the latter.
When it is proposed to establish the Veterinary Nurses Board, the Minister shall make regulations setting out detailed rules on the size, composition and administration of the Board as well as specified consequential or supplemental matters such as establishing committees and their composition, election procedures, etc.
The Minister may make an order conferring additional functions on the Veterinary Nurses Board. Provision is also made for the laying of every such order before each House of the Oireachtas.
The Minister may give general policy directions to the Veterinary Nurses Board.
The VCI shall make regulations in respect of veterinary premises in the interests of safety for proprietors and members of the public, animal welfare and the upkeep of proper standards of premises. The regulations must be introduced no later than a year after the VCI is established.
A registered person is prohibited from practising at a veterinary premises unless a certificate of suitability is in force or is deemed to be in force in respect of that premises. The VCI may issue a ‘‘certificate of suitability’ in respect of a veterinary premises if it meets appropriate standards. There are mechanisms for applying for a certificate of suitability.
The Council shall make regulations relating to an application for and grant of a certificate of suitability, including the form of the application, the documentary evidence that must accompany it, the information to be included in the certificate, and inspections of veterinary premises.
The VCI may grant or renew a certificate of suitability, to grant or renew it subject to conditions, or to refuse it. There are mechanisms to apply in the event of refusal of a certificate of suitability, including appeal by the applicant to the District Court.
The VCI may revoke or suspend a certificate of suitability for reasons including malpractice, the interests of animal welfare, public health or on request of the certificate holder. A registered person aggrieved by a proposed revocation or suspension may appeal to the District Court.
There were transitional arrangements regarding certificates of suitability by providing for a period of 4 years from the date the VCI makes relevant regulations to enable practitioners to bring premises up to requisite standards.
The VCI may cause a veterinary premises to be inspected on receipt of an application for a certificate of suitability or to ensure that the premises complies with the provisions of or that the conditions applying to a certificate granted are being complied with.
It is an offence to make a false statement in an application for o representations made to the VCI in relation to a certificate of suitability. Provision is also made for the revocation of such certificate on conviction. It is an offence to forge or fraudulently alter or use or permit the fraudulent alteration or use of a certificate of suitability.
The VCI shall establish and maintain a register of certificates of suitability. A certificate of suitability is not transferable. A certificate of suitability must be displayed prominently at the premises to which it relates.
There are summary penalties for offences under this Part — €3,000 and/or 6 months imprisonment.
Investigations by Council
There is provision for the appointment, by the VCI, of authorised officers who shall be furnished with warrants of appointment. The Act sets out the functions of an authorised officer which are primarily to undertake investigations, carry out inspections and furnish reports.
Authorised officers may enter a premises (excluding a State premises) for the purpose of inspection. Entry to a dwelling would be possible only with the consent of the occupier or on the basis of a search warrant. There is provisions for the issue of search warrants by the District Court to authorised officers.
VCI may take action following consideration of a written report by an authorised officer. If the report indicates the commission of an offence, the Registrar of the VCI shall, in response to an instruction from the VCI, refer the matter to the Minister, the Garda Sı´ocha´na, the Revenue Commissioners or the Director of Public Prosecutions.
There are penalties for offences under this Part —€3,000 and/or imprisonment up to 6 months.
Schedule 2 sets out detailed rules relating to how the VCI organises its business. Provision is made for a seal, elections, resignations, membership, chair and meetings.
Schedule 3 sets out detailed rules governing registration of veterinarians who are EU nationals, including temporary registration for the purposes of provisions of services.
Schedule 4 sets out detailed rules relating to the discharge of their functions by the Education Committee, the Preliminary Investigation Committee and the Fitness to Practice Committee.