St. Catharines Veterinarian returning to practice reignites abuse controversy

A St. Catharines veterinarian who was suspended last year for physically abusing animals is back on the job. Mahavir Singh Rekhi has returned to Skyway Animal Hospital after having his license suspended last year as a result of numerous videos which surfaced showing Rekhi punching, choking and throwing dogs who were under his care.

His return and the subsequesent reopening of this animal hospital has been met with controversy. Several people gathered outside to protest the reinstatement of Rekhi’s license, waiting from morning until the vetrenarian left later in the afternoon. Rekhi was surrounded by protesters as he left, and declined to speak to any media present.

Rekhi pleaded guilty to professional misconduct after the College of Veterinarians of Ontario investigated complaints  submitted by four employees of the animal hospital. As punishment, Rekhi was fined $10,000, and had his license suspended for 10 months, a duration he was able to reduce to six months by attending training sessions on how to properly restrain animals.

With his license reinstated, Rekhi has resumed working at the animal hospital. His return has prompted numerous protests by those who feel his penalty was not severe enough.

The videos released last year demonstrated Rekhi abusing nine different animals on nine separate dates. Several of these instances were against small dogs, which Rekhi would grab by the throat and repeatedly hit in the face. Another video showed him picking up a muzzled dog by its neck and slamming it down onto a table.

As part of his suspension, Rekhi will be subject to three unannounced inspections per year, for the next two years.

The college of veterinarians faced significant backlash over their decision to administer a suspension, rather than a revocation of Rekhi’s license.

“In this case the conduct was clearly reprehensible but the discipline panel also had to consider that Dr. Rekhi is a reasonably experienced practitioner with no prior findings, amenable to rehabilitation and he demonstrated remorse by pleading guilty,” responded the college in an online statement.

The statement also mentions the penalty “fell within range of penalties sanctioned by courts and other regulators.”

Several online petitions have formed pleading with the college to revoke Rekhi’s veterinary license, the largest of which has over 63,000 supporters.

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