Use of the title 'physiotherapist'

December 2017

It is important to note that the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law is enforced in each state and territory for the protection of the Australian public. As such, the scope of the law is limited to the provision of health services to human beings only. The title physiotherapist may only be used by qualified practitioners who maintain the registration standards outlined by the National Law, that is a minimum of 150 hours’ practice on humans in the previous registration year or 450 hours in the previous three years. Practice on animals cannot be considered as practice in terms of physiotherapists’ obligations under the National Law.

Furthermore, physiotherapists must also complete a minimum of 20 hours of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) each year to maintain their registration. This CPD must be related to practice on humans, not animals.

Many APA members treat both humans and animals, and as such maintain their registration as a result of the hours of work performed on humans. They are fully qualified to use the title physiotherapist. APA members who have practiced exclusively on animals and who have done so for a long time would also need to meet the human practice hours and CPD requirements to call themselves physiotherapists.

The APA has asked its members to be mindful of not using the term ‘animal physiotherapist’ as it could be construed that their practice on animals is regulated, which is not the case.

The National Law states that using the title physiotherapist is protected and thus the public can be assured anyone claiming to be a registered physiotherapist is answerable to the National Law. Using the title ‘animal physiotherapist’ may lead members of the public to assume that the National Law has jurisdiction over the treatment of animals, which is not the case.

The National Law does not allow for pet/animal owners to notify relevant authorities about issues they may have about a physiotherapist’s treatment of an animal, as they would if the treatment had been provided to a human, unless this involved ‘holding out’ (eg someone claiming to be a physiotherapist when they are not) or advertising offences.


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