Veterinary Surgeons Act

Applies to the whole UK

Title: Veterinary Surgeons Act

Category: UK Law

Date: 1966 (amended 1988, 2002)

Reference: * [Full text not available] (1988/526, 2002/1479)

General Description:

This Act states (Section 19) that 'no individual shall practice, or hold himself out as practising or as being prepared to practice, veterinary surgery unless he is registered in the register of veterinary surgeons or the supplementary veterinary register'. Schedule 3 of the Act lists exemptions from restrictions on the practice of veterinary surgery. Part I of the Schedule lists the treatment and operations which may be given or carried out by unqualified persons and Part II lists certain exclusions.

Schedule 3, Part 1 treatment and operations which are relevant to farm animals and which may be given or carried out by unqualified persons include

  • Any minor treatment given to an animal by its owner, by another member of the household of which the owner is a member or by a person in the employment of the owner.
  • Any medical treatment or any minor surgery given to an animal used in agriculture by the owner of the animal or by a person engaged or employed in caring for animals so used.
  • The rendering in an emergency of first aid for the purpose of saving life or relieving pain or suffering.
  • The performance by any person of or over the age of eighteen of any of the following operations: male animal castration, tail docking of lambs and the amputation of the dew claws of a dog before its eyes are open.
  • The performance, by any person of the age of seventeen undergoing instruction in animal husbandry, if, either of the following conditions is complied with:

- the instruction in animal husbandry is given by a registered veterinary surgeon and the operation is performed under his direct personal supervision;

- the instruction in animal husbandry is given at a recognised institute of education and the operation is performed under the direct personal supervision of a person appointed to give such instruction.

Schedule 3, Part II, operations which may only be carried out by veterinary surgeons include

  1. the castration of a horse, pony, ass or mule, bull, boar or goat which has reached the age of two months, a ram which has reached the age of 3 months or a cat or dog;
  2. the spaying of a cat or dog;
  3. the removal (otherwise in an emergency for the purpose of saving life or relieving pain or suffering) of any part of the antlers of a deer before the velvet of the antlers is frayed and the greater part of it has been shed;
  4. the desnooding of a turkey which has reached the age of 21 days;
  5. the removal of the combs of any poultry which have reached the age of 72 hours;
  6. the cutting of the toes of a domestic fowl or turkey which has reached the age of 72 hours;
  7. the performance of a vasectomy or the carrying out of electro-ejaculation on any animal or bird kept for the production of food, wool, skin or fur, or for use in the farming of land;
  8. the removal of the supernumerary teats of a calf which has reached the age of 3 months; or
  9. the dehorning or disbudding of a sheep or goat, except the trimming of the insensitive tip of an ingrowing horn which, if left untreated could cause pain or distress.

The Orders provide further exemptions from restrictions on the practice of veterinary surgery, by an unqualified person over the age of 18 including:

  1. any treatment by physiotherapy given to an animal by a person acting under the direction of a registered veterinary surgeon who has examined the animal and has prescribed the treatment of the animal by physiotherapy;
  2. the taking from a fowl of blood from a superficial wing vein for the purpose of a test being carried out for bacillary white diarrhoea, being the test commonly referred to as the rapid (or slide) test;
  3. the removal from a fowl by means of a suitable instrument of:

- not more than a one-third part of both its upper and lower beaks, measured from the tip towards the entrance to the nostrils, if carried out as a single operation; or

- not more than a one-third part of its upper beak only, measured as aforesaid and the arrest of any subsequent haemorrhage from the beak by cauterisation;

  1. the removal from a turkey poult of its snood, either by manual pinching out or by means of a suitable instrument, unless the poult has reached the age of 21 days;
  2. the removal from a fowl of it comb or of the dependent portion of its wattles, carried out in either case by means of a suitable instrument, unless in the case of the removal of a comb, the fowl has reached the age of 72 hours: and
  3. the vaccination of poultry with a licensed vaccine.

This Act has been amended by:-

1    The Veterinary Surgeons 1966 Amendment Order 1988

2    The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (Schedule 3 Amendment) Order 2002

3    The 'Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (Schedule 3 Amendment) Order 2002' which  extends the role of Veterinary Nurses in animal care and improves their quality of training.

4    The 'Veterinary Surgery (Rectal Ultrasound Scanning of Bovines) Order 2002' which permits trained and competent non-veterinarians to legally carry out rectal ultrasound scanning for the purpose of detecting whether cows are pregnant.

Pertinence to Agriculture: Animal Health, Animal Welfare

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