Integrating qualified trainers and behaviourists into the vet-led team

Posted on October 28, 2019 by David Montgomery

The 1990s saw the start of what was to become an exponential rise in interest in animal behaviour, in particular the behaviour of the nation's pets. With it came the rise in people claiming to apply psychological principles to train animals and stop unwanted behaviour; this was quickly followed by a growing number of societies and associations representing this new, unregulated 'profession'.

The level of knowledge and skills held by trainers and behaviourists spanned the complete spectrum of quality and a new form of animal mistreatment emerged where the poorly educated and trained individuals were inflicting stress and creating wider and often potentially dangerous behaviour problems in the animals they were engaged to help. The only way that pet owners and even vets could decide who was suitably qualified was by their own declaration of expertise.

In 2009, the organisations that represented the highest standards of education and training for their practitioners collectively formed the Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC) (www.abtcouncil.org.uk) as a regulator for the profession and this move immediately attracted the support of the major animal welfare charities. Over the following years, ABTC was established as a charity in England, Wales, and Scotland and although the membership continues to grow, it can only do so on a voluntary basis.

There have even been several attempts made to compete with ABTC through various registers and other organisations in an effort to try and add legitimacy to those who do not meet ABTC's professional obligations or strict rules and checks on how they operate. All such ventures have failed to gain independent support from anyone other than those they represent but what they have succeeded in achieving is confusion. Anybody approaching the animal behaviour and training sector for the first time could be excused for being overwhelmed by the bewildering array of logos, meaningless post nominal letters and claims of professionalism, the majority of which are of little substance at all.

For several years ABTC has sought formal independent validation of its functioning in order to firmly establish its position even more clearly on the animal welfare landscape, representing the forefront of training and behaviour professionals. RCVS accreditation will provide the perfect opportunity to remove any difficulty for vets, animal keepers, and even insurance companies in identifying suitably qualified trainers and behaviourists. It will also demonstrate to all concerned that ABTC has become a byword for quality and its practitioners are truly a part of the vet-led team.

By working together with the veterinary profession, we are providing more clarity for our clients and, most importantly safeguarding the welfare of animals.

David Montgomery

Written by David Montgomery

Following a 14-year career in the Army, David went to Oxford Brookes University and graduated in 1996 with a BSc (Hons) in Combined Studies (Psychology and Animal Behaviour). This led to a second career of being an advocate of improving animal welfare through education. 21 years later, he was elected President of the Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC).