How Ethics Complaint Decisions Are Made

This rubric is intended to provide an outline for members of Complaint Review Panels to address ethics complaints. It has been developed to allow ethics committees to select an appropriate, proportional sanction for a complaint that gives the respondent a chance to learn and redress the issue. 

These guidelines are not intended to be a substitute for personal judgements, nor are they supposed to be read as an inflexible“points system.” Complaints panels can select an appropriate sanction from a list of potential sanctions depending on the level of the violation they are reviewing, or they may choose a different sanction. These guidelines exist to provide a shared structure and to aid transparency within the ethics complaints process. 

Some classes of response to a complaint: 

  • No further action
  • Advisory warning
  • Mandatory coursework (this can include deletion of social media posts, etc)
  • Mandatory supervision 
  • Publishing a statement of Clarification
  • Suspension or restriction of the individual’s credential or eligibility (but they will be readmitted if they do the mandatory reparative things like coursework)
  • Revocation of a credential(but they can reapply)
  • Revocation of the candidate’s ability to become certified 
  • Combination of sanctions (like imposing a period of supervision after readmission/mandatory reparations, sort of like a probation)
  • Refunding relevant money for products/services rendered

Levels of Sanction

Level One: Least Serious Sanctions

  • Official advisory/warning letter sent to the respondent.
  • Require deletion/removal of inappropriate material.
  • One or more mandatory supervision/mentoring meetings.
  • Probation: Possibility of more serious sanctions if the respondent is subject to another ethics complaint (that has sufficient evidence to be taken forward) within a given period.

To be designated Level One, a violation must meet at least one of the following:

  • Minor violations that don’t constitute a pattern; a first offense.
  • Anything that isn’t already mentioned as Level Two or Three.

Level Two: Moderate Sanctions

  • Issue an official apology to the complainant.
  • A period of supervision.
  • Requiring coursework, for example, proof of completion of an ethics course. 

To be designated Level Two, a violation must meet at least one of the following:

  • Pattern of minor violations of one or more points of the Code.
  • Violation of the following points:
    • 1.3 Trainers/behavior consultants respect the right of clients to make decisions regarding their pet’s management, training and care. Trainers/behavior consultants are responsible for helping clients understand the potential consequences of those decisions.
    • 3.2 Trainers/behavior consultants maintain competence in training and behavior through continuing education.
    • 3.3 Trainers/behavior consultants maintain adequate knowledge of, and adhere to, applicable laws, ethics, and professional standards.
    • 3.8 Trainers/behavior consultants seek help and education when confronted with complex or difficult cases, and refrain from taking cases beyond their professional experience.
    • 4.1 Trainers/behavior consultants are respectful of colleagues and other professionals and do not condemn the character of their professional acts, nor engage in public commentary, including commentary in public presentations, written media or on websites, internet discussion lists or social media, that is disrespectful, derisive or inflammatory. This includes cyberbullying, that is, the use of electronic media for deliberate, repeated and hostile behavior against colleagues.
    • 6.7 Trainers / behavior consultants shall not commit business fraud, plagiarism or copyright infringement, misuse or misappropriation of logos, trademarks, theft of intellectual property, slander or libel.

Level Three: Most Serious Sanctions

  • Complete revocation of certifications and membership with no possibility to rejoin or recertify.
  • Revocation of certification, with the possibility of recertification if certain conditions are met 
  • Suspension of certification, with the possibility of having it reinstated if certain conditions are met.

To be designated Level Three, a violation must meet at least one of the following: 

  • Pattern of significant violations of one or more ethical principles 
  • Violation was deliberate, intentional, in full knowledge of it being an ethics violation 
  • Significant violation of at least one of the following principles of the Code:
    • 1.2 Trainers/behavior consultants are aware of, and comply with, applicable laws regarding the reporting of animal bites and suspected abuse or neglect.
    • 1.6 Trainers/behavior consultants ensure and oversee the safety of clients, animals, and the public in implementing training and behavior programs.
    • 1.6 Trainers/behavior consultants ensure and oversee the safety of clients, animals, and the public in implementing training and behavior programs.
    • 3.4 Trainers/behavior consultants provide truthful advertising and representation concerning their qualifications, certifications, experience, performance and pricing of services.
    • 3.7 Trainers/behavior consultants work within their professional education and individual expertise.
    • 3.9 Trainers/behavior consultants do not advise on problems outside the recognized professional education and certifications, and do not provide advice or recommendations in areas of veterinary medicine or family counseling unless licensed and qualified to do so.
    • 6.1 Trainers/behavior consultants accurately represent their competencies, education, training, and experience relevant to their practice of training and behavior.
    • 6.4 Trainers/behavior consultants do not represent themselves as providing specialized services unless they have the appropriate education, training, or experience.


  • If there’s a genuine lack of knowledge or no intent to cause harm, a violation can be moved down to a less severe sanction level.
    • Example: someone using a logo/designation of a recently lapsed membership or certification would provoke a less serious sanction than using a logo/designation of a certification they never attained.
  • If there’s a clear intent to harm, attempt to conceal evidence, or failure to comply, the CRP can consider moving up to a more severe sanction level.

For any violation, the CRP can require any of the sanctions from a lower level plus any of the sanctions from the level the violation is judged to be at. So, for a Level 2 violation, the CRP can require a set of Level 1 sanctions plus Level 2 sanctions.