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BVA calls for vet practice regulation to ensure animal welfare

British Veterinary Association

4 min read Partner content

BVA President presses for urgent reform of ‘not fit for purpose’ Veterinary Surgeons Act at the organisation’s annual Westminster dinner.

Speaking at the British Veterinary Association (BVA) annual Westminster dinner last night (Wednesday 29 February), addressing members of the veterinary profession, MPs and peers - including the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs the Rt Hon Steve Barclay MP - BVA President Dr. Anna Judson called for urgent modernisation and reform of the ‘outdated’ Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966.

Outlining the limitations of the existing legislation, including lack of accountability for vet practices, Anna said: “Created in a different era, [the Veterinary Surgeons Act] is nearly 60 years old and not fit for purpose…it is inappropriate that only individual vets and vet nurses can be held accountable for business decisions which can directly impact on animal health and welfare.”

Anna also highlighted the current act ‘fails to embrace the full potential of the veterinary team’ and specifically called for the title of ‘vet nurse’ to be recognised in law, reflecting that vet nurses are highly qualified and bring a wealth of experience to practice teams.

“My presidential theme ‘a profession for everyone’ reflects my belief that we must build a thriving profession, one that attracts and keeps our people and incorporates the whole veterinary team. We simply cannot achieve this on the foundations of the current, outdated legislation”, Anna added.

Alongside the need to reform veterinary legislation, with a general election imminent, Anna highlighted a number of key areas for reform outlined in BVA’s manifesto for animals, vets and public health, including; the case for overhauling the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991; the need to tackle key animal welfare concerns left unresolved after the abandonment of the Kept Animals Bill; and the importance of securing permanent access to veterinary medicines in Northern Ireland.

BVA has consistently highlighted the serious threat to Northern Ireland’s access to veterinary medicines as a result of leaving the European Union. The anticipated loss of over half of all veterinary medicines in December 2025 will have serious and far-reaching consequences for the veterinary profession, the farming and equine sectors, as well as public health. Anna acknowledged the UK Government’s progress on addressing the issue with the recent announcement of a new working group tasked with urgently finding a permanent solution. However, she highlighted the need for the veterinary perspective to be included in this process for it to succeed. 

During her speech, Anna also talked about the speed with which the UK Government introduced the XL Bully ban in England and Wales and the negative impact this is having on pet owners, animal charities and vet teams. She also outlined how the ban will not stop the ‘serious and distressing issue of increasing dog bite incidents and dreadful fatalities’ and a complete overhaul of dangerous dog legislation is needed.

Anna said: “Dog bite incidents have steadily risen since the introduction of the Act, with hospital admissions increasing from around 3,000 to nearly 9,000 in 2021-22, a three-fold increase. This is despite four types of dog already being on the banned breeds list. Along with other members of the Dog Control Coalition, we believe that the only way to protect public safety is by overhauling the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. Breed specific legislation as enshrined in the Dangerous Dogs Act is ineffective and hard to enforce. It must be replaced with breed neutral legislation. Only then can we properly protect the public.”

Anna’s speech also acknowledged the challenges continuing to face the profession in 2024, including the ongoing threat of avian flu and emerging diseases such as Bluetongue virus 3, and the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) review of veterinary services, announced towards the end of last year.

The loss of the Kept Animals Bill last May was also incredibly disappointing. A Government manifesto commitment, it would have tackled several significant animal welfare issues. Anna acknowledged the positive progress being made on individual pieces of animal welfare legislation currently going through Parliament which tackle some of the same pressing issues, including bills on live exports and pet abduction, both progressing at pace. There was also good news yesterday that legislation which will introduce a strict licensing scheme to help prevent the keeping of primates as pets was passed in the House of Lords. 

Read Anna’s full speech here.

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