Special to the Langley Advance
Two women testified in court on Tuesday that a former Langley veterinarian exposed himself and made unwelcome advances toward them when they brought pets to the clinic where he was working.
Wayne Etherington is charged with two counts of sexual assault and one count of committing an indecent act in connection with events that took place in December 2012 and January 2013, while he was working at the Clayton Animal Hospital.
His trial began in provincial court in Surrey on Tuesday with testimony from two of the three complainants, who cannot be identified because of a publication ban.
The first incident took place on Dec. 7, 2012, and involved a woman who had helped a friend out by driving her and her dog to the vet.
The woman, who is 65 years old, testified that the dog was recovering from surgery and was agitated, so it stayed in her van in the parking lot during the appointment.
Etherington came out to see the dog twice. The woman said that at the end of the second interaction she asked a question about the dog and Etherington “lifted up his coat and I could see his exposed penis.” He said the dog would be fine and went back into the clinic.
The woman said she was shocked by what happened. Her friend did not witness the alleged exposure.
On Dec. 31, 2012, another woman took her dog to the vet to have a bite on its ear checked out.
“Dr. Etherington used that opportunity to hug her in a very personal fashion, pelvic to pelvic, and he had a partial erection she could feel through the clothing,” Crown prosecutor Janet Dickie said during her opening statement.
The second complainant is expected to testify next week.
The final incident took place on Jan. 26, 2013. A woman, now 52 years old, brought in her dog because it had flu-like symptoms and Etherington treated the dog with intravenous fluids. She arranged to pick up her dog later that evening, rather than leave it overnight. Etherington touched her leg and hand during the dog’s examination.
When she returned, the woman said Etherington initiated some personal conversation that made her feel uneasy, so she changed the subject repeatedly. At the end of the appointment Etherington allegedly hugged her and then kissed her on the cheek.
The woman said she left as quickly as possible.
“I was by this time really uncomfortable and feeling scared,” she said.
As she put her dog in her truck, the woman said Etherington came out and apologized, saying he was tired and lonely, and must have misread her cues.
“I said, ‘Yeah, you really did,’” the woman said.
The woman said she told her daughters, son and husband about the incident right away, but didn’t report it immediately because she didn’t know if what had happened was a crime.
“The allegations are not… highly intrusive, but these were contacts that interfered with the sexual integrity of two complainants on the sexual assault and they were assaults because they were without consent,” Dickie told the court.
The trial is expected to last about three days.
Etherington is also scheduled to go to trial for one day later this month on a charge of failing to appear in court. Etherington’s trial on the sexual offences was supposed to take place in February 2015; however, he did not show up and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Etherington is suspended from practising by the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia, which received a number of serious formal complaints about him.
– Jennifer Saltman is a reporter with The Province.