Advancing animal welfare and ethics in veterinary practice through a national pet wellbeing task force, practice-based champions and clinical audit

17 Oct 2020

Wensley, S., Betton, V., Martin, N., Tipton, E.

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Background

Veterinary animal welfare advocacy can be undertaken at individual, community, national and international levels. The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), a veterinary charity with 48 Pet Hospitals UK-wide, created a consultative staff network to put an explicit organisational focus on animal welfare–focused veterinary practice.

Methods

PDSA created a national internal committee—a Pet Wellbeing Task Force—composed of veterinary staff representatives. Together with recruited hospital-based Champions who serve as a focus for animal welfare and ethics within their clinical teams, the resulting staff network has described a vision of animal welfare and ethics within companion animal veterinary practice, with accompanying practice-level actions. These actions have formed the basis for national clinical audit, repeated three times since 2013.

Results

The audit, alongside targeted interventions, has driven organisational change (eg, new policies), led to measurable improvements in pet wellbeing (eg, improved pain assessment and management) and stimulated collaborative practice-based research with universities.

Conclusion

A dedicated staff network has facilitated organisation-wide communication on animal welfare and ethics; offered a safe space to raise and discuss animal welfare and ethical issues; and fostered leadership, by working towards model veterinary practice with respect to animal welfare and ethics, with benefits for pet patients, staff and the wider veterinary and veterinary nursing professions.