The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966
The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 was put in place to regulate the treatment of animals. Under its provisions, it is basically only veterinary surgeons who may legally diagnose, prescribe, advise on the basis of a diagnosis and perform surgery on animals.
There are exceptions to this. Osteopathy, chiropractic, physiotherapy and, by implication, shiatsu, acupressure, massage, tellington touch and lymphatic drainage, may be performed by non-vets. These are ‘manipulative therapies’ and are allowed, but only with proper referral by and under the supervision of a vet. This does not imply a quick ‘phone call to the vet, to obtain permission but implies that the form of treatment and the practitioner have been actively recommended by and are to be overseen by the vet. This provision is clearly widely infringed, at present, which may invalidate insurance in the event of a claim.
Aromatherapy, homeopathy, acupuncture, bach flowers, tissue salts and herbal medicine are not allowed to be performed on animals by a non-vet, whether or not under the supervision of a vet. This holds true, whether or not fees are charged. Chiropractors and other therapists are not allowed to prescribe or to recommend such medicines for animal patients. Strictly speaking, herbal and other remedies should not be peddled by herbal and other suppliers, in the way that currently happens. Insurance claims may be jeopardised thereby.
The law is being broken every day, by the prescription of natural medicines by non-vets. There is no protection in indemnity insurance or in law for animals or ‘owners’, if anything goes wrong. Furthermore, there is scope for prosecution of ‘owner’ and prescriber, under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, if the condition fails to improve under such circumstances.
The RCVS (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) has been at pains to clarify the position: