NZVA supports intent of proposed surgical procedure regulations

The NZVA has requested animal health and welfare standards be raised in its submission to the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) regarding proposed Significant Surgical Procedure (SSP) regulations under the Animal Welfare Act.

From May 2020 new criteria that determine what is a SSP come into force. The proposed regulations seek to make it clear who can carry out certain procedures and what requirements must be met.

“In general we support the principles and intent of the proposed regulations, which we believe will raise, or retain current animal welfare standards in this country,” says NZVA Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Helen Beattie.

“Where we think the proposals do not go far enough, we have made this clear,” she says.

Helen Beattie says the NZVA’s submission is supported by evidence where possible, and by the expert opinion of veterinarians, whose knowledge, skills and training in veterinary science has informed a robust analysis of the animal welfare implications of the proposed regulations.

“Veterinarians have the ability to identify and manage risks and complications, and access restricted veterinary medicines immediately, which enables them to uphold the highest standards of animal welfare.”

Helen says if it is not practical for a veterinarian to attend, the circumstances under which non-veterinarians should be allowed to carry out these procedures need to be carefully considered.

“We support the principal that animal owners and persons in charge are held responsible for deciding who should manipulate their animal. However, it is unclear how owners might be expected to assess the competence of these people, given they aren’t likely to be subject matter experts.”

The submission also calls for the regulation of Allied Veterinary Professionals (AVPs), who are not legally required to have any training or qualifications, and are not subject to any regulatory oversight.

“This means animal owners and veterinarians cannot easily verify the competency of AVPs. This presents a range of significant risks that include poor animal welfare outcomes, risks to biosecurity practices, and passive surveillance, human health risks, and also potentially market access issues by virtue of having untrained and unregulated persons working on our animals.

“We strongly support the development of a regulatory framework for AVPs to address these risks. We are heartened to see some AVPs have initiated self-regulation, including a voluntary register, continuing professional development, and in some instance a Code of Conduct.

“These elements are part of what formal regulation would also require. We are encouraged that equine dental technicians, who recently petitioned parliament, also support regulation.

“We would be open to working with equine dental technicians, and any other AVP representatives to assist in the development of a robust regulatory framework in the interests of animal health and welfare. Ideally we’d have all AVPs come under one regulatory umbrella, with different streams.”

Helen Beattie says the NZVA supports a fair and just transition that would enable practising AVPs to continue to do so while they worked toward any qualifications required under such a framework. This would embrace recognition of prior learning including on-the-job skills, if a portfolio of supporting evidence was presented.