Procedures for Handling Ethical Complaints About AABP Members

Procedures for Handling Ethical Complaints about AABP Members

A complaint that an AABP Member (Respondent) committed an alleged infraction of the AABP Professional Practice Guidelines may be filed in accordance with the procedures set forth in this document. Alleged infractions may only be related to specific principles and guidelines specified in the AABP Professional Practice Guidelines posted publicly at http://www.associationofanimalbehaviorprofessionals.com/guidelines.html and only if the alleged infraction occurred while the principle or guideline was in effect and only if it has occurred within 1 year from the date that the complaint is made.

1. An individual filing a complaint that an AABP Member committed an infraction of the AABP Professional Practice Guidelines shall present the allegation filling out and mailing Ethics Form #001 (Click here for Ethics Form #001) to the AABP Ethics Committee Chair Attn: Debra Millikan 24A Renown Avenue Transmere SA 5073 Australia along with their full names and addresses. Once received, the complaint (Ethics Form #001) shall remain confidential in accordance with Item #26. If the Ethics Committee Chair has any conflicts of interest, The AABP President will be notified and the AABP Advisory Board will nominate an Advisory Board Member to occupy this role and carry out Ethics Chair duties with regards to processing the complaint and any reference below to the Ethics Committee Chair will refer to this nominee. If the complaint concerns the President or the President has any conflicts of interest with regards to the case, the Vice President shall occupy the President's role throughout the complain process, accepting and processing the complaint. If the Vice President also has conflicts of interest in the case, another Advisory Board Member with no conflicts of interest in the case will process the complaint.

2. The Ethics Committee Chair or nominee shall forward the complaint to the AABP President within 48 hours and notify the Advisory Board that a complaint has been filed. A case file will be opened by the Ethics Committee Chair and issued a case number.

3. The Ethics Committee Chair will review the complaint to ensure it is complete. If additional information is needed, the Ethics Committee Chair shall, at his or her discretion, investigate and obtain needed information for a complete file, which may include pursuing the information him or herself or requesting it from the individual filing the complaint.

4. The following information is necessary to process an alleged infraction complaint:

Name of the Complainant and Respondent.

Clear identification by name and number of the specific portion of the Professional Practice Guidelines alleged to have been breached.

Clear identification of whether the person making the complaint elects to be the Complainant in the case or to remain anonymous as an Informant allowing the Ethics Committee to determine whether it will be the Complainant in the case.

Provide a specific and detailed written description of the incident or incidents that are alleged to be an infraction of the Professional Practice Guidelines, including any additional details or evidence that he or she believes may be important in the case. The date or dates that the alleged infraction occurred must be included.

Receipt and initial review of report of alleged infraction

5. The Ethics Committee Chair will acknowledge receipt of the alleged 
infraction and confirm whether the person filing the complaint will be the 
Informant or the Complainant. It will be explained that maintaining 
Informant anonymity may limit the information that can be considered in the
 case. The Ethics Committee Chair will notify the Complainant that the
 allegation details and the identity of the complainant will be disclosed to 
the Respondent, will request confirmation of this by the Complainant by
 completion of Ethics Form #002 and will confirm that the Complainant wishes 
to proceed with the allegation. The Ethics Committee Chair will notify the Informant/Complainant that the Ethics Committee Chair will act as the 
Complainant in the case should this be requested to maintain Informant 
anonymity and that the Committee may or may not elect to proceed as far as 
it determines appropriate, that the Ethics Committee Chair may request 
further information at some point, that the response from the Respondent
 will be confidential and that the Informant will not be notified 
once the case has been resolved, whether it was dismissed or sustained as 
per Item #26. Complainants will be notified once the case has been closed to the satisfaction of the Ethics Committee but the determination or reason for closing the file will not be disclosed.

6. The Complainant or Informant shall be notified that all proceedings shall be kept confidential and the Informant will be cautioned that while the AABP will make all reasonable efforts to maintain confidentiality, the AABP cannot guarantee that the Respondent will not be able to infer or otherwise determine the identity of the Informant as per Item #26. If confidentiality, as outlined herein, is breached, it may be determined to be an infraction of the AABP Professional Practice Guidelines.

7. Once the Ethics Committee Chair has insured that the complaint is complete with regard to required information, the Ethics Committee Chair shall review the complaint and may consult with the President at his or her discretion or request that the Advisory Board determine whether legal counsel shall be consulted. If approved by Advisory Board, legal counsel may be consulted for advice.

8. If additional information is needed to facilitate an initial review, the Complainant will be notified by the Ethics Committee Chair of the required information or, the Ethics Committee Chair will obtain said information from Informants or other sources as appropriate. Any gathered information will be placed in the case file—the complaint edited by the Ethics Committee Chair as appropriate to maintain Informant confidentiality. Removed information may not be considered in the Ethics Committee review process.

9. If the initial review indicates, on the face of it, that the complaint does not likely (balance of probability standard, which states that a preponderance of the evidence suggests it is more likely than not that the infraction occurred) constitute an infraction of the Professional Practice Guidelines or there is inadequate evidence to support the complaint, the Complainant shall be notified that no investigation will be pursued unless further evidence is made available. Said notification shall be sent in writing by the Ethics Committee Chair.

10. If the Ethics Committee Chair deems that there are (balance of probability standard) grounds for Ethics Committee review as a result of the complaint, the Respondent shall be notified that a complaint has been filed, the names of the Complainants and the details of the allegation in full and they will be provided 30 days for the opportunity to reply to the allegation. The Complainant shall be given the opportunity of 14 days to provide additional information with regard to the reply of the Respondent. The Respondent shall be notified and provided with the Complainant’s reply and provided 14 days for the opportunity to reply. This will be the final opportunity for both parties to provide information that they believe should be considered as the complaint is reviewed. If a reply is not provided within the appropriate timeframe, the case will proceed with the information already in AABP possession. The Ethics Committee Chair shall receive the replies and replies will be included in the case file. Once all information is received, the Ethics Committee Chair will review the case again to determine if the complaint merits, on a balance of probability standard, proceedings and determination by the Ethics Committee. If appropriate, the complaint will then be referred to the Ethics Committee and they will investigate as required, review and make a determination as to whether the complaint is dismissed or sustained and sanction imposed.

Review and Determination by AABP Ethics Committee

11. Once the Respondent is notified that the Ethics Committee will investigate, review and make a determination and parties indicated in Item #10 have provided responses as stipulated, the Ethics Committee shall review the allegation, any replies and any further evidence in the case file, investigate any further areas requiring clarity and resolve the allegation by way of dismissal of the complaint or sustaining it. If an AABP Ethics Committee member (not to be confused with the Ethics Committee itself as a whole being the complainant) is the Complainant or Respondent is involved with either party in a manner that would constitute a conflict of interests, he or she shall not be involved in that Ethics Committee Proceeding for the case in question as per Item #28.

12. The Ethics Committee will be presented with all information and evidence presented by the Complainants or Informants or through investigation and the information and comments provided in response by the Respondent that is the subject of the complaint.

13. The Ethics Committee may continue to gather information from any source deemed pertinent and may request additional information or comment from the Complainants, Informants or the Respondent.

14. The Ethics Committee Chair may consult with legal counsel with approval of the AABP Advisory Board and enter that information into the case file.

15. If, in order to provide for a fair determination, the Ethics Committee needs more than 60 days to make a determination, the Ethics Committee will notify the Complainant and Respondent that an extension will be needed. The Ethics Committee will state the length of the extension.

16. The Ethics Committee shall conduct its review and provide a determination based solely on the information in the case file, within 60 days of being presented with the case for review.

17. The Ethics Committee will make a determination by a majority vote based on a reasonable doubt standard (meaning, that no other reasonable conclusion may be arrived at than that the Respondent committed the infraction in question; this is a higher standard than balance of probability standard used to determine whether a case is reviewed by the Ethics Committee) of those participating. In the event of a tie vote, the case will be forwarded to the Advisory Board for consideration and determination by majority vote. Where a tie occurs in the Advisory Board vote, the President’s vote determines the result, where the President abstains the Vice President’s vote determines the result and where both the President and Vice President abstain, a tie vote results in dismissal of the case.

18. The Ethics Committee will notify the Complainants and Respondents in writing of its determination. Notification to the Complainants, via Ethics Form #003, will contain only the determination that the complaint has been dismissed for lack of evidence or sustained. Notice to the Respondent, via Ethics Form #004, shall also include a reminder that the nature of the determination will remain confidential as per see Item #26.

19. If the Ethics Committee dismisses the complaint, the file will be maintained by the President but will be kept confidential although it may be used, only where relevant, in any future cases involving the Respondent (within the context of the 1 year policy). If the Ethics Committee sustains the complaint, determining that an infraction of the AABP Professional Practice Guidelines has likely occurred, the Ethics Committee shall determine and impose appropriate sanction. The sanction shall remain confidential as per Item #26.

20. Sanctions may include any of the following:

Conditions on Membership: Advice on how to avoid committing such infractions in the future or rectifying the present one and what actions the Respondent must take in that regard by a specified time. If the Respondent declines to meet the conditions placed on their membership, they may be suspended or excluded.

Suspension: From 1 week up to 1 year may be imposed, the Respondent being removed from email lists and the directory of members for that time period and will not be considered a Member in Good Standing during that time.

Exclusion: Termination of membership privileges and removal of any certification, professional designations or other considerations.

21. A Respondent sanctioned will be notified, via Ethics Form #004, of their right to appeal at the same time as they are notified of the determination of the Ethics Committee.

22. The sanctioned Respondent will be allowed 30 days from the date the determination was delivered to present an appeal to the Advisory Board, providing reasons why the Ethics Committee reached an erroneous decision.

Appeal or Referral to the AABP Advisory Board

23. Grounds for appeal include erroneous decisions based on mistakes made by the Ethics Committee as per these procedures. Grounds for appeal do not include further evidence on the alleged infraction itself (which was to be included in the responses) except where it relates to how the Ethics Committee arrived at an erroneous decision. If a sanctioned Respondent requests an appeal to the Advisory Board, all materials considered by the Ethics Committee will be given to the Advisory Board. If an error in procedure has occurred, the Advisory Board may send the case back to the Ethics Committee or the Advisory Board may overturn or modify the determination of the Ethics Committee.

The Advisory Board may confer with legal counsel as deemed necessary throughout the appeal process.

24. If the case has been referred to the Advisory Board because the Ethics Committee could not reach a majority decision as per Item #17, the Advisory Board will consider the complaint, make a determination, and notify the Ethics Committee, the Respondent and Complainant.

25. The Advisory Board shall make its determination within 30 days. If the Advisory Board determines that more than 30 days are required to make a fair determination, the deadline may be extended by the Advisory Board with notice to all parties.

Confidentiality

26. Confidentiality shall be maintained throughout the complaint process. For the purpose of these procedures, confidentiality will refer to the following. The Complainants will be provided the Respondent’s initial reply if one is made available and upon resolution of the complaint, they shall be informed regarding whether the complaint was sustained and an infraction (the specific principle or guideline is not specified) was determined to have been committed, or dismissed for lack of sufficient evidence of said infraction beyond a reasonable doubt. The Informants will not be provided with any Respondent responses, other information pertinent to the case; nor will they be notified as to whether the case is dismissed or sustained. The AABP will take reasonable steps to ensure confidentiality, but persons providing information to the Ethics Committee as Informants acknowledge that the AABP cannot guarantee that Respondents or others will not infer or otherwise determine, in some manner, the identity of the Informant. The Respondent will receive the name of the Complainants and any report or description of evidence provided by them or Complainants replies. They will also receive notification of the determination arrived at and their right to appeal the determination. The details of the case may be shared within the Advisory Board, Ethics Committee and legal counsel minus any individuals within these groups identifying any conflicts of interest in the case or who are Complainants as individuals. A closed Yahoo Group email list and/or secure per-to-person email (not email accounts that are accessible to anyone other than the members involved) will be used during the review process. The AABP cannot guarantee the security of information in these mediums although they will take all reasonable steps to ensure the information remains confidential. The details of the complaint or determination will not be shared outside of the Advisory Board, Ethics Committee, legal counsel and Respondent except where required by law. If a seeming violation of law has occurred, any and all information may be provided to appropriate law enforcement agencies, regulatory agencies or courts.

27. Infraction of confidentiality by any member of the Advisory Board, Ethics Committee or legal counsel may be considered an infraction of the Professional Practice Guidelines.

Ineligibility of members of AABP Advisory Board or Ethics Committee to Participate

28. If an Advisory Board member or Ethics Committee member is a Complainant as an individual or Respondent, or related to the case in some other substantive manner, or they have a conflict of interests in the case, he or she shall not be involved as a decision maker at any level in this process. Individuals are responsible to disclose possible conflicts of interest. If they are not sure whether a conflict of interests exists, they should disclose the nature of the possible conflict to the President, who will review the matter with the Advisory Board for majority vote determination, the President’s vote breaking ties. Where appropriate the Advisory Board member or Ethics Committee member in question shall either merely be asked to refrain from participating in case discussion and/or voting or the President or Ethics Committee Chair may establish a separate email list for discussion and resolution of the case and the Advisory Board member or Ethics Committee member in question shall not be subscribed to that list. When the case is resolved, the President will delete the email list and maintain the transcript of the case confidentially.

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