Employees speak out after vet handed 10-month suspension for choking, punching animals
Rachael D'Amore, CTV Toronto
Published Wednesday, September 14, 2016 4:47PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 15, 2016 4:37PM EDT
Four former employees of a veterinary hospital in St. Catharines are speaking out about their former employer, saying a veterinarian who choked and hit the animals in his care received a “slap on the wrist” for his actions.
Dr. Mahavir Singh Rekhi, who practices at Skyway Animal Hospital on Welland Avenue, has been suspended for ten months after being found guilty of professional misconduct by the College of Veterinarians of Ontario (CVO) this summer.
Through his lawyer, Rekhi refused to comment on this story.
The punishment springs from a series of videos that show Rekhi choking, punching and improperly restraining animals at his hospital.
Those videos were taken by four of his former employees who quietly documented the acts over the course of three years.
“You have to see it to believe it,” Jessica Hamilton, a former veterinarian technician at Skyway Animal said as she shakes her head. “I felt sick when I first saw it.”
In one video, Rekhi can be seen picking up a cat under anesthetic, swinging it around and letting its limp body slam up against the side of a cupboard.
In another, a puppy getting its nails clipped begins to struggle and Rekhi can be seen using the metal clippers to beat him over the snout.
“To this day, I have a lot of self-guilt for not standing up, Hamilton said, brushing away tears. “But I’ve never seen that type of evilness before in a person. I’ve lost of a lot of sleep over it,”
“It’s been hard holding onto the videos because I’ve wanted to post them publicly but not knowing what was going on in the investigation, we couldn’t,” Larissa, another former Skyway Animal Hospital employee, said.
In 2014, a group of employees from the hospital rallied and reported Rekhi to the CVO with a file folder of video evidence against him.
Though the allegations were investigated and his license was suspended for 10 months on August 20,2016, Rekhi is eligible to reduce that suspension to four months if he completes a series of half-day “mentorship sessions,” and seminars pertaining to the proper handling of animals.
If he follows through, Rekhi could be treating animals again as early as December.
“It was a slap on the wrist, if anything,” Larissa said. “There should be jail time for that. You are bound by law – he took an oath to protect animals, not to treat them that way.”
Hamilton, who unlike Larissa can be seen in several of the videos working as Rekhi’s technician, said she’s still bound by guilt.
One particular instance is still difficult for her to re-watch.
In another instance, caught on video, Hamilton stands behind Rekhi and watches in horror as he chokes a Chihuahua so violently it defecates.
“He just grabbed him and started choking him out. He had his hands around his neck and he had interlaced his fingers and was just choking him. The dog was just… dying,” she said.
“I asked him why he was doing it and he said, ‘he deserved it.’”
Hamilton and Larissa said they would often try to grab the animals away from Rekhi but he would deflect their attempts. Other times, they were frozen in shock.
“He told me if you handle them roughly enough, they don’t do it the next time, that they would learn their lesson,” Larissa said. “And they did, they remembered him. Every single animal that knew him that came in would pee.”
When a CTV Toronto reporter showed up at the Skyway Animal Hospital earlier this week and asked if the clinic was still open for business, an unnamed employee said she “wouldn’t be standing here” if they weren’t.
The site indicates Rekhi graduated from Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University in Ludhiana, India in 1988. He officially registered a license with CVO in 1999.
Though Rekhi will be subject to three surprise inspections every year for two years following his penalty, Hamilton and Larissa believe a more thorough investigation is needed to determine the safety of animals at Rekhi’s practice.
“CVO doesn’t just lay charges for hearsay,” Larissa said, “because they always get hearsay.”
“I’m hoping that with the public seeing this footage that despite the fact that he still has his license, nobody will go back and see him, that his credibility will count for nothing” Hamilton added.
“I really hope nobody ever takes an animal to see this man.”
Larissa, who was eventually fired from Skyway Animal Hospital, believes Rekhi had caught on to her collecting video evidence.
“I came in for work one day and I was fired,” she said.
“He said he didn’t think that I was good for him, and he was absolutely right.”