OTTAWA–National animal law advocacy organization Animal Justice is dismayed that animal cruelty charges against a St. Catharines veterinarian were dropped today in court.
Dr. Mahavir Rekhi was caught on videotape hitting, choking, and punching animal patients in his clinic. The College of Veterinarians of Ontario (CVO) gave Dr. Rekhi a mere 10-month suspension in Au
gust, 2016 instead of permanently revoking his license. That suspension was reduced to only six months after Dr. Rekhi completed some training. In February, Dr. Rekhi reopened his veterinary clinic, prompting continued public outrage.
Dr. Rekhi was investigated by the Ontario SPCA, which laid 16 counts of criminal animal cruelty.
“Our system failed Dr. Rekhi’s animal victims every step of the way,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “Evidence of Dr. Rekhi’s criminal conduct should have been referred to authorities immediately. Instead, the matter was initially dealt with exclusively through a College of Veterinarians of Ontario internal discipline process.
“Next, Dr. Rekhi’s slap-on-the-wrist suspension put him back on the street and in a position to abuse more animals. It was gratifying that criminal charges were laid against Dr. Rekhi after an extensive investigation, because this was the only remaining opportunity to legally protect animals from him. Upon conviction, a judge could have prohibited Dr. Rekhi from having custody or control of an animal.
“Now that the charges against Dr. Rekhi have been withdrawn, the doors of justice have been slammed in the face of vulnerable animals. If our system cannot get a cruelty conviction in a straightforward case with video evidence, what hope is there for animals in more marginal situations?”
It has been reported that part of the rationale for withdrawing the charges includes that investigators sought out information from the CVO without first receiving a complaint. However, Animal Justice filed a complaint with authorities immediately after the abuse videos came to light, and it has been reported that at least one guardian of an animal abused by Dr. Rekhi also filed a complaint.
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