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Application to resume veterinary practice refused

21 July 2004

Please note: This is an archived news story. Dr Helen Elisabeth Hein's application for restoration was unsuccessful and she is therefore not currently entitled to practise as a veterinary surgeon in the UK.

On 20 July 2004, the RCVS Disciplinary Committee considered an application for Restoration to the Register of Veterinary Surgeons by Dr Helen Elisabeth Hein.

The Committee decided that Dr Hein's application should be refused - details of the decision are listed below. 

In March 1996, Dr Hein pleaded guilty to 8 offences of causing unnecessary suffering to dogs in about March 1995. Upon these charges she was fined and disqualified for seven years from having custody of dogs. One further offence of keeping a breeding establishment for dogs without a licence was also admitted. The general committee of the Kennel Club suspended her for 10 years following her conviction in March 1996. In November 1996, an order was made by the Disciplinary Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons that Dr Hein's name be removed from the Register.

Whilst subject to her disqualification she was charged with three charges of having custody of dogs when disqualified, and in September 1997 she was sentenced to a conditional discharge for two years. In July and September 2000, she was again charged with two offences of keeping dogs when disqualified, and in November 2000 the Guildford Magistrates Court, upon her plea of guilty to these offences, ordered her to complete 100 hours of community service. In December 2001, Dr Hein was charged with the offence of keeping a breeding establishment without a licence and sentenced to two months in prison, which upon appeal was suspended, and she was disqualified from keeping German Shepherd Dogs to 1 March 2002.

In September 2003, Dr Hein applied to the Disciplinary Committee of the RCVS for restoration to the Register and her application was refused. The Committee, on that occasion, observed that, despite the existence of orders disqualifying her from having custody of dogs, she had shown no respect for the law and engineered a situation to "get around" any court orders made against her in connection with the breeding and prohibited custody of her dogs. In doing so she showed little respect for the provisions and statutes enacted for the protection of animals. The Committee also found that Dr Hein had continued to practise veterinary surgery in connection with her own animals.

Today Dr Hein has renewed her application. We ask ourselves what circumstances have changed since her application was refused last year. The Committee is encouraged by two aspects of the evidence:

Firstly, Dr Hein has incurred no further convictions since her previous appearance before this Committee.

Secondly, the Committee notes that Dr Hein has given evidence that her treatment of her dogs with prescription drugs was under the advice of a veterinary surgeon. However, this has not been independently corroborated, and oral evidence would have strengthened her case.

Dr Hein has apologised for her offences and for the embarrassment caused to the College. However, she has also repeatedly refused to admit that she did anything significantly wrong, irrespective of the offence or plea made at the time. This gives us considerable concern that her previous offences may be repeated in the future. It is important for Dr Hein, like any other citizen, to realise that she must operate within the law and to recognise her own limitations. The Committee considers that independent verification of the continued welfare of the dogs in her care is important.

Dr Hein has never practised clinically, has been removed from the Register for eight years and has undertaken no structured training to refresh her clinical knowledge and skills. This further concerns the Committee, who feel that her restoration to the Register would be inappropriate at this time and that her application for restoration to the Register would be strengthened if she could provide evidence of continuing professional development.

In consequence, the College refuses the application on the above grounds.

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