St. Catharines vet cleared of 16 charges for animal abuse

A St. Catharines’ veterinarian who was found guilty of professional misconduct by the Ontario College of Veterinarians has had all criminal charges dropped against him by the crown. Dr. Mahavir Rekhi, who was charged with 16 criminal charges of causing unnecessary pain to an animal and failing to provide adequate care, was videotaped abusing animals in his clinic, the Skyway Animal Hospital, in summer of last year. The videos depict Rekhi punching and harming animals while they were under his care at his clinic. Other alleged incidents have Rekhi grabbing animals by the throat and striking them, as well as striking animals that were under anesthetic for a procedure. The recorded and alleged incidents all took place over the course of three years of Rekhi’s time at the Skyway Animal Hospital.

The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) launched an investigation into Rekhi a day following the release of a video depicting Rekhi’s abuse by CTV News Toronto last year.  Rekhi had been videotaped by some of his former employees without consent in order to capture his abuse and improper treatment of the animals under his care. The OSPCA does have the ability to lay criminal charges against an individual for animal cruelty under the Criminal Code of Canada. In June of 2017, the OSPCA officially charged Rekhi with the sixteen criminal counts.

In August of last year, the College of Veterinarians suspended Rekhi for ten months, order he pay $10,000 in fines to the college, and be retrained on proper animal care. Rekhi only served six months of his ten month suspension. According to the College, Rekhi is subject to three inspections by a College official each year, all of which may be unannounced.

Most recently, on November 3, all charges against Rekhi were dropped. The attorney for the Crown allegedly announced in court that because the OSCPA officer who investigated Rekhi’s alleged crimes started an investigation with a warrant that was not based on a complaint against Rekhi, the charges were invalid. The Crown allegedly also took issue with the fact that the OSPCA went to the College for information, which the Crown ruled was a violation of Rekhi’s Charter rights.

The Lincoln County Human Society released a statement to the public regarding the dropping of the charges. The statement reads:“The Lincoln County Humane Society, (LCHS), expresses its disappointment regarding the decision of the Crown Attorney to withdraw all charges against a St. Catharines veterinarian charged with animal cruelty. The role of the LCHS is to investigate reports of animal cruelty in this region. We conducted an exhaustive and thorough investigation, which produced sufficient evidence to support 16 counts of animal cruelty. We received an opinion from an Ontario Crown attorney while this case was moving forward and that opinion was to lay 16 charges. The LCHS stands behind this investigation and the Inspectors who worked on this case. We are confident that our investigators performed their duties well and brought charges forward as the evidence supported. The LCHS remains committed to protecting animals in our community. We will continue to conduct thorough animal cruelty investigations and provide the Crown with comprehensive and detailed reports to support charges and convictions of those responsible for animal cruelty where appropriate. We expect that the public will be outraged by the outcome of this case. The accused was entrusted with the care of animals in this community and will not have to answer in a court of law to allegations of animal cruelty.”

When reached for comment, Kevin Strooband, an Officer with the OSPCA and the Lincoln County Humane Society, reiterated the recommendation from the above statement and urged concerned citizens to use their voice to affect change.

“When government hears concerns, they answer”, Strooband said. “It’s absolutely the way to go. The more people who voice their opinions, the more change can be made.”

When asked in regards to why the Crown dropped charges against Rekhi, Strooband stated the idea that an investigation requires an official complaint is incorrect. Strooband offered the example of a police officer coming across a body and launching an investigation without an official complaint. Strooband also clarified that the Regulatory Modernization Act, as well as two other pieces of legislation, allow for organizations to provide information for a law enforcement investigation.

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