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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

FAQ - Compliance Procedure / Complaints

What is the role of the Compliance Department?

The Compliance Manager/Officer perform an administrative function by facilitating the process as this relates to the formal lodgement of a complaint.  The VCA Constitution, Rules & Regulations can be viewed via our website here.

The Compliance Department is the liaison point between Complainants (those making a complaint), the Respondent (the person about whom the compliant is made) and appointed Committee representatives.  Given this function, and to protect the integrity of a case, the administrative team are not in a position to engage in discussions directly relating to the “content” of a case file.  In depth discussion about a case falls under the purview of the Investigations Committee and, assuming a matter is referred to Investigations by the Management Committee, please be assured that all parties are given an opportunity to discuss the facts.

The compliance team do not have decision making or investigative power.  This role is accorded appointed Committees in the process.  Committees include: Management Committee, Investigations Committee, Mediation Committee, Disciplinary Committee and Appeals Committee. 

The Compliance Department provides the medium through which matters are progressed in accordance with Dogs Victoria Rules/Regulations, ensuring that all parties are afforded an opportunity to be heard.

It is important to note that Dogs Victoria does not have the power to award monetary compensation, nor does it have the power to force a member to comply.  As a member based organisation, it falls within our purview to determine breach or compliance with the Code, Constitution, Rules and/or Regulations and, assuming that a case is proven, impose an appropriate penalty.   

Should financial compensation be the outcome you seek, it may also be necessary to lodge a civil claim (e.g. VCAT).

Does Dogs Victoria provide a legal advisory service?

No. Should you be seeking legal advice, it will be necessary to contact legal aid or a solicitor.

How do I make a complaint?

A complaint pack may be located for download on our website by scrolling down the page to 'Other Forms' under Forms/Members Forms or upon request from the office.

The appropriate form is to be completed and returned together with any supporting documentation/evidence.  Evidence is a crucial element of any case file. As any investigation must be completely impartial, determining whether or not a Respondent has prima facie, a case to answer, relies solely on facts and evidence.

To minimise the risk of error, it is important to ensure all current evidence supporting the allegations is lodged in one submission, at the time of complaint.  Further opportunities will be provided to lodge material should a case be referred to Investigations.

Once completed, a complaint application must be signed and include the prescribed fee if appropriate (please see notes below relating to the complaint fee).

 

What happens once I lodge a complaint?

  • Receipt of the complaint is acknowledged in writing. Depending on the nature of the complaint, the matter is generally referred to the next scheduled meeting of the Management Committee.  Management Committee meet once a month (traditionally the third week of each month) and Agenda items generally close the first Wednesday of each month;
  • Management Committe will determine the course of the application.  For example, the Committee may direct the office to forward the matter to Investigtions Committee, Mediation Committee or both.  Both parties will be notified, in writing, as soon as this information is to hand;
  • Management Committee, at its meeting held 20 December 2017, agreed that no matter shall be notified to a Respondent until such time as the matter has been considered by the Committee in accordance with Rule 2.20;
  • Once a directive has been issued by Management Committee, a letter is issued to the Respondent with a copy of the Complaint and/or supporting evidence enclosed. Please be assured that all personal contact information (unless acknowledged in a public forum such as Facebook) is redacted (i.e. blackened out) prior to issue to the Respondent;
  • If your complaint has been referred to the Investigations Committee, a member of that Committee may be in contact with each party to confirm the facts/evidence. For matters referred to Mediation, either the Chair or Compliance Manager will be in touch with further information. Once a decision is reached, both parties will be notified in writing;
  • Assuming that a matter has been referred to Investigations Committee, the Committee shall determine whether or not there is a case to answer;
  • It is important that parties lodge ALL ADDITIONAL material pertinent/relevant to the case directly to the appointed Investigator during the course of an Investigation as there is no formal process to lodge material post-Investigation (i.e. once a case is closed or a case to answer has been proven and charges laid). Should a matter be referred on to a Disciplinary Hearing or later, an Appeal, there will be further opportunity to be heard.


Case to Answer

  • The complaint fee, if applicable, will be refunded once prima facie, a case to answer, has been proven. Reimbursement made by direct bank deposit takes approximately 2-3 weeks.  Cheque reimbursement takes up to 4 weeks;
  • The complaint will be referred to the Disciplinary Committee and a letter issued to both parties specifying the nature of any/all breaches of the Codes, Rules and/or Regulations;
  • All relevant evidence gathered during the course of an investigation will be issued to parties to enable preparation in advance of a Hearing;
  • At this point, a Complainant is entitled to any response/s issued by the Respondent to the file;
  • Parties will be notified once a Hearing date has been set (not less than 10 days prior to the date of a Hearing).

NO Case to Answer

  • Fee is retained by Dogs Victoria (i.e. shall not be reimbursed to the Complainant);
  • Case is closed and both parties notified in writing;
  • The Complainant will be given an explanation as to why the allegations/breaches cannot be proven;
  • The decision of the appointed Committee will stand. Given Complainants are given adequate opportunity to present a case/supply additional evidence during the course of an investigation, there is no right of appeal by a Complainant  provided for within the Dogs Victoria Rules/Regulations (i.e. not allowed for under the Dogs Victoria Rules).

 

Matters referred to Disciplinary Committee.  What happens next? 

  • A letter is issued to both Complainant and Respondent outlining the breaches as determined by Investigations (inclusive of additional evidence where relevant);
  • A Disciplinary Panel is convened and a Hearing date set. Both Complainant and Respondent will be notified of the Hearing date not less than 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the Hearing.  The Hearing provides another opportunity to be heard.  While it is not mandatory for a Complainant to present in person, there is an expectation that the Respondent attend and the Complainant be prepared to stand by their allegations if required on the night;
  • Provision is made for a Complainant, Respondent and/or witnesses to be heard via telephone conference during a Hearing. The Panel may not find cause to contact a Complainant or witness electing to present via phone on the night (e.g. in matters where there is sufficient evidence on record to reach a conclusive decision on the night). 
  • The risk a Complainant runs in deciding not to attend a Hearing (allowing the Hearing to stand on existing evidence alone), is that a case could be dismissed should further evidence be presented by a Respondent on the night which cannot be corroborated/refuted at the time of the Hearing;
  • Should a Respondent fail to appear on two separate occasions without justified cause (as determined to be ‘reasonable’ by the Chair), Disciplinary Panel reserves the right to hear the case in absentia (i.e. in the Respondent’s absence) (Regulation 5.1.6 refers);
  • Each party in attendance may bring a representative/witness (Regulation 5.4.4 refers). It is the responsibility of the Respondent (and/or Complainant) to arrange their own witnesses or representation.  The office must be notified of attendance not less than 24 hours prior to a Hearing in such instances, inclusive of names/details of support persons/representation.

Am I entitled to know the name/s of Panel Members in advance?

  • All Committee representatives remain impartial and as such, names will not be released to parties prior to a Hearing;
  • This ensures the integrity of a case and prevents any advance contact between parties thus permitting procedural fairness for all;
  • Panel Members will be introduced to parties at the Hearing.

Disciplinary Hearing Outcome/s – What happens then? 

  • The Respondent will be advised of the Panel decision (if presenting in person/via phone) on the night of the Hearing;
  • A penalty, if imposed, comes into effect at the conclusion of the Hearing;
  • Both parties will receive a formal letter of notification of the Disciplinary Hearing result;
  • All Hearing outcomes are reported on the Dogs Victoria website and in the Gazette. Those cases resulting in a suspension will also be listed on the ANKC website (Reg 3.11.1 refers).  Publication is irrespective of notice of appeal and any penalty shall stand as published unless dismissed/amended on appeal;
  • Where a penalty of suspension is imposed, the provisions of Regulation 5.6.1 apply (all appropriate applications may/may not be specified by a Panel on the night of a Hearing);
  • Should a fine be issued as part of the penalty, an invoice will be enclosed at the timne of notification.  Fine payments are subject to normal business practice.
     

What Happens Should I Appeal? 

  • The Respondent shall have the right of Appeal within 7 days (from the date of the Hearing). Where a Respondent is not in attendance to hear the decision immediately, right of Appeal shall be within 7 days of receipt of written notification;
  • Should an appeal be lodged, any penalty imposed at a Hearing stands and is publicised in accordance with Regulation 3.11 until such time as the outcome of the appeal is known. A penalty remains in force unless overturned on Appeal.  In cases where an appeal is lodged and upheld (and penalty dismissed/amended as a result), the result of the appeal finding will again be published (in accordance with Regulation 3.11).  It is important to note, that given the lead time for publication in the Dogs Victoria magazine, there may be unavoidable delays when issuing amendment in cases where an appeal is upheld.
  • An appeal application form will be issued to any party wishing to appeal a penalty or finding. This form is important as it ensures that all required information is complete at the time of lodgement and confirms the grounds upon which an appeal will be considered;
  • Please be aware that an Appeal is not a “Re-Hearing” of a case and must meet the requirements for the lodgement of an appeal before the Chair of the Appeals Committee will consider assigning a Panel to hear the case.

COMPLAINT FEE

Who pays? (Reg 5.1.1 refers)

  • A complaint fee of $250* is required and applies to all Dogs Victoria members and Affiliates wishing to lodge a complaint;
  • Effective 21 June 2017, a complaint fee of $250* also applies to all members of any ANKC Member State Body wishing to lodge a complaint;
  • Non-members and overseas parties - eligible to submit one free complaint per calendar year.  A second or subsequent complaint in any calendar year will incur a fee of $250.

* Please be aware that payments made by credit card are subject to a non-refundable 1.39% bank transaction levy surcharge.

Is my fee refundable?

  • Once a prima facie case is established (i.e. proven to be a valid case to answer) by the Investigations Committee, the fee is reimbursed to the Complainant (less any applicable card transaction surcharge);

Should the Committee decide that there is “no case to answer”, the fee shall be retained (i.e. is non-refundable). There are no ‘appeal rights’ in these circumstances.

IMPORTANT NOTE:   Please be aware that the Compliance Department is unable to engage in any communication relating to the CONTENT of a case.  The reason for this is that any such dialogue may be seen to prejudice a case.  The role of the Compliance Department is purely administrative, facilitating the progress of a case file through approved procedural channels.


Information current as at 10/05/18