A St. Catharines veterinarian who was caught on video abusing animals in his care has re-opened his practice.
Dr. Mahavir Rekhi was back in his office at Skyway Animal Hospital at 514 Welland Ave. Wednesday — though there didn’t appear to be any patients coming or going.
An LED “open” sign was on in the front window.
The College of Veterinarians of Ontario suspended Rekhi’s licence from Aug. 20, 2016, to Feb. 20 after the video evidence surfaced.
Protesters began arriving at the clinic shortly after the doors opened Wednesday.
Nathalie Perreault of St. Catharines used her car to partially block the driveway.
She stood on the roof holding a sign as motorists on Welland Avenue honked their horns in support.
“The doctor called the cops on me,” she said. “The cops came. I know my rights. I’m not completely blocking the driveway. I am on public property.
“The cop warned me not to go on his property. He was nice about it. He also told me to be careful when I’m standing on my car. He didn’t want me to fall.”
A Standard reporter entered the clinic and attempted to speak with Rekhi. A worker at the counter said the veterinarian wasn’t doing any interviews.
At lunch time, a delivery driver dropped off two pizzas at the clinic.
Rekhi locked up the office and left at 5 p.m. sharp. He was immediately set upon by protesters, some of whom yelled obscenities at him. He didn’t respond to the protesters or requests for interviews.
As he stopped his Lexus SUV at the end of the driveway and waited to turn onto Welland Avenue, a protester stood at his window yelling at him. Another protester told the others to get out of the way. They weren’t allowed to block his SUV.
Rekhi’s lawyer, Neil Abramson, did not respond to requests for an interview Wednesday.
In a previous interview, he said Rekhi took responsibility for his actions and acknowledged that he had inappropriately handled or restrained certain animals.
“There was a context that emerged at the hearing,” Abramson said. “Dr. Rekhi was educated in a foreign jurisdiction.
“When he came here, he took exams and at no time was in any way instructed in or tested on appropriate methods of animal restraint or behaviour modification. This is an area that fell through the cracks in terms of his knowledge base.”
Rekhi was suspended for 10 months and fined $10,000 by the College of Veterinarians of Ontario after his staff surreptitiously copied surveillance video from the clinic’s security system that showed Rekhi abusing animals.
Rekhi's suspension was reduced by four months because he underwent a series of courses and sessions on proper animal restraint and behaviour modification techniques.
The disciplinary decision of the college further stipulated that his clinic would be subject to unannounced spot checks for a period of two years to ensure compliance.
Rekhi’s case made national headlines when members of his staff went public with the video evidence they gathered as part of a complaint to the college. The graphic footage showed Rekhi hitting and choking dogs and a cat being swung by its hind legs. The staff felt the penalties handed out by the college weren’t sufficient.