As this year’s extended Volunteers’ Week (1 – 12 June) kicks off, the British Veterinary Association is shining a spotlight on the majority of veterinary surgeons in the UK - more than 4 in 5 (84%) - who give their time and veterinary expertise at a reduced rate, while more than 2 in 5 work unpaid with animal charities and rehoming centres to treat thousands of abandoned, mistreated or injured animals each year.
The charitable contributions that vets make to assist animals are highlighted today with results drawn from the Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey by the British Veterinary Association (BVA), which asked vets about the arrangements they have with charities. The results show that across the UK:
- 72% have formal arrangements with charities to provide veterinary services at a reduced fee with the figure rising to 84% when including less formal set-ups
- 43% of vets do unpaid work for animal charities or other animal welfare organisations
Charitable activities vary from practice to practice and vets and vet nurses often work with local animal rehoming centres and national animal charities to provide a range of pro bono or reduced fee services, such as health checking, medicating and treating, neutering and vaccinating.
- Many vets and vet nurses give up their time providing veterinary care at animal rescue and rehoming centres to improve the health and welfare of animals in need, ranging from treating injured wildlife to caring for abandoned and mistreated dogs and cats.
- Many veterinary practices provide veterinary advice to homeless people and those in housing crisis, and care for their dogs as part of the Dogs Trust Hope Project. Vets also support other projects, such as the Freedom Project, which temporarily fosters animals belonging to families fleeing domestic violence.
- Overbreeding of cats and dogs contributes to thousands of unwanted and neglected pets each year. Vets help reduce the numbers and help improve animal welfare by teaming up with charities, some of which provide neutering vouchers to owners on limited incomes.
- Over 300 veterinary practices undertake work for the veterinary charity PDSA, providing treatment to animals of owners on means-tested benefits. The scheme ensures some of the most disadvantaged people in society can access veterinary treatment to keep their pets healthy.
Vets never turn away an un-owned or wild animal needing emergency treatment. The RSPCA and BVA recognise the essential role vets play with the Initial Emergency Treatment (IET) scheme. When a member of the public finds a sick or injured stray or wild animal, vets will always provide necessary treatment, and may receive a charitable contribution towards the cost of that treatment, for instance through the RSPCA IET scheme.
- Many vets volunteer overseas, from rabies control programmes in India and Africa, and animal sanctuaries in Goa, to horse and donkey welfare in The Gambia and treating stray animals in Greece.
Commenting, BVA President Sean Wensley, said: “Behind these statistics are countless stories of veterinary teams – who already often work long, demanding hours – giving their time for free to support animal rescue staff and charities to care for abandoned, injured and neglected animals, as well as help owners to keep and care for much loved animals in times of hardship and crisis. The UK’s network of animal charities and rehoming centres do a fantastic job protecting wild and domestic animals each year.
“Animal welfare legislation is clear that animal keepers and owners are responsible for meeting their animals’ needs, and prospective animal owners must be aware of the cost and time commitment involved in animal ownership. But we appreciate people’s circumstances can change and that vets volunteering their time and expertise contributes not only to animal health and welfare but also to human wellbeing and our communities.”