Despite pleas from Tofinoâ€™s municipal council, the College of BC Veterinarians isnâ€™t budging on its refusal to allow Dr. Jane Hunt to treat the West Coastâ€™s pet population.
The West Coast has been without full-time veterinary services since Hunt was ordered to stop providing care to local animals last year.
Hunt opened Uclueletâ€™s only veterinary clinic in 1988 but was forced to surrender her veterinary license in 2004 when new regulations mandated equipment she could not afford.
She continued providing care to the West Coastâ€™s pet population who had no one else to turn to but was ordered to stop when the College of BC Veterinarians caught wind of her unlicensed services.
Hunt, who was recently nominated for the Order of BC, received a letter from a Vancouver based law firm representing the college on Oct. 25 that threatened her with legal action if she did not immediately stop treating animals.
The threat was an unpopular action in the eyes of many West Coast residents and both Tofino and Uclueletâ€™s municipal councils sent letters to the college expressing their communitiesâ€™ concerns.
Tofinoâ€™s municipal council sent their letter in January urging the college to create new conditions or bylaws to allow qualified people, like Dr. Hunt, to provide medical services to animals in rural communities.
The collegeâ€™s president Nicholas Shaw wrote back and Tofinoâ€™s municipal council reviewed his response during Tuesdayâ€™s regular meeting.
Shaw declined to speak specifically to Huntâ€™s case citing â€œprivacy constraintsâ€ but said it is the collegeâ€™s responsibility to uphold the Veterinarians Act and ensure practicing veterinarians are held accountable.
â€œIndividuals who carry on the unauthorized practise of veterinary medicine are not accountable to anyone,â€ he stated through the letter. â€œAsking this regulatory body to condone the unauthorized practise of veterinary medicine is akin to asking that unauthorized persons provide human health or dental care in your community. Surely you would agree that that would neither be safe for the public nor in the best interest of your community.â€
Shaw said he understood councilâ€™s â€œfrustration at the lack of available veterinary servicesâ€ and cited economics as the reason a veterinarian has not set up shop on the West Coast.
â€œThe cost of establishing and maintaining a veterinary facility are considerable and if the veterinarian is unsure of the economic viability of a practice and concerned that they may be unable to sustain a professional income in a given community they are unlikely to establish or maintain a practice in that community,â€ he said.
He suggested Tofino and Ucluelet work together to lure a licensed vet to the West Coast.
â€œWith respect, a solution to your problem with lack of veterinary care might be for you, in concert with (Ucluelet) to own and provide a facility for veterinary practice,â€ he said. â€œIt would then be possible for you to contract a veterinarian to operate it at a reduced rent.â€
Tofinoâ€™s council received the letter without discussion but Mayor Josie Osborne provided comments during the meetingâ€™s public question period when she was asked if it was realistic to expect local governments to set up a veterinary clinic.
â€œItâ€™s a little difficult to interpret exactly what (the college) is suggesting but I think they are suggesting that there are tools local government can do to encourage the establishment of a local veterinary practice,â€ she said.
â€œThe letter writer also suggested that we directly contact veterinary clinics and see what they say and Iâ€™ve done that and the response would seem to reinforce what the letter writer said in that, yes, economics are the reason why people have not established a practice out here yet.â€
She said she has discussed the issue with Ucluelet Mayor Bill Irving and further conversations are in the works.
â€œThere are certain rules for what municipalities can and canâ€™t do to encourage different kinds of businesses and itâ€™s something that (Irving) and I have had a conversation about,â€ she said. â€œThereâ€™s a larger conversation to have there…I plan to continue discussing it with the Mayor of Ucluelet and I hope that we will both be discussing this further with our councils in due time.â€