The Crown dropped all 16 criminal charges against a St. Catharines veterinarian who was seen on camera choking and punching animals at his clinic in 2016.

Dr. Mahavir Rekhi was filmed choking, punching and restraining animals at his Skyway Animal Hospital over the course of three years.

The videos were given to CTV News Toronto in the summer of 2016.

According to statements provided to the College of Veterinarians of Ontario in Oct. 2013, Rekhi “grabbed Taz, a Chihuahua, by the throat and punched the dog multiple times in the face.”

Another incident described in the complaint alleged Rekhi hit a husky in the face while the dog was under anesthetic during a neuter procedure.

The College of Veterinarians of Ontario later found Rehki guilty of professional misconduct and suspended him for ten months.

He returned to work at the clinic in February after submitting to retraining and unannounced inspections.

Newstalk 610 in St. Catharines reports that Crown prosecutor said in court Friday that because the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals started an investigation into Rekhi without receiving a formal complaint, he should not have been charged criminally.

As a result, the Crown asked to drop eight counts each of causing unnecessary pain to an animal and failing to provide suitable and adequate care for an animal.

The Crown also stated Friday they did not think they had a reasonable chance at securing a conviction.

An OSPCA officer involved in the investigation, Kevin Strooband, told The Canadian Press he initiated the investigation without receiving a complaint because of the graphic video evidence he witnessed in media reports.

He likened the situation to a police officer who would launch an investigation after stumbling across a body.

He said the OSPCA conducted 14 on-camera interviews in the course of their investigation and told CTV News Toronto his investigation “had the backing of a crown attorney” and was handled correctly.

The national animal law advocacy group Animal Justice reacted to the news, saying they were “dismayed” at the outcome.

“Our system failed Dr. Rekhi’s animal victims every step of the way,” said the group’s executive director Camille Labchuk in a news release Thursday. “Evidence of Dr. Rekhi’s criminal conduct should have been referred to authorities immediately. Instead, the matter was initially dealt with exclusively through a College of Veterinarians of Ontario internal discipline process.”

Rekhi can now continue to practice at the clinic, though Newstalk 610 reports he now only operates the clinic on Saturdays.

About 20 demonstrators gathered outside the courthouse Friday expressing outrage that the criminal charges were dropped.