Britons warned to find a vet before a pet this Christmas

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People who are considering buying animals as Christmas presents this year are being urged to find out if they will be able to find a vet as a shortage caused by Brexit and Covid hits the sector. The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has sent out the warning after a rise in pet ownership during lockdown has driven up the demand for vets in the country just as Brexit based staffing issues start to bite. 

There are also new requirements regarding import and export food checks to the EU that may have an effect on the availability of pet food in the UK. The BVA’s comments come just days after the Food Standards Agency (FSA) warned UK meat and poultry suppliers that the vet shortage may also impact the supply of meat over Christmas. 

James Russell, the BVA’s senior vice-president said: “If you are thinking, we should be having a puppy or a kitten or whatever, then part of the due diligence, really, of thinking ‘how am I going to look after that animal right through its life?’ would be to think, where will I access veterinary care for this animal?

“We would encourage people to check in with their local vets to find out: are they taking on clients at the moment? What happens out of hours?” he said. “Those sorts of questions, to make sure they’re actually in a position to fulfil their obligation of being able to find veterinary care for those animals when they need it.”

The warning follows unprecedented demand for vets in the wake of Brexit. Due to new checks, all exporters of meat and fish into the EU are now required to get vets to certify food for entry into Europe. Russell said the new certification process was consuming vast amounts of vets’ time. “From 1 January to the end of September, our professional spent 210 years’ worth of time completing export health certificates.”

On Wednesday a senior government official told the public accounts committee that the UK had built up sufficient numbers of vet and veterinary officials to conduct the checks on food and animals by offering free training to those interested in doing the work.

However, the committee’s chair, the Labour MP Meg Hillier, questioned whether the work with exporters was not helping people find a vet and diverting vets from “dealing with cats and dogs or sheep” and “all their private practice”.


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Written by

Claire Gordon

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