Licensing vets involved in thoroughbred racing

The most recent efforts by Racing NSW to impose a licence on veterinarians involved in thoroughbred racing began early in 2012. From the outset AVA members were very outspoken in their opposition to the racing licence. They  emphasised that they are already licensed and properly regulated by the NSW Veterinary Practitioners Board, and no further regulation is required. Members also raised a range of procedural and practical matters. A letter-writing campaign by AVA members to NSW parliamentarians has allowed individuals to loudly express their opposition to licensing.

After the NSW Supreme Court ruled that Racing NSW was legally able to licence veterinarians, Racing NSW issued implementation policies that outlined how a permit system would work. The permit system was implemented in late 2015 and its application is being monitored by a joint committee comprised of representatives of Racing NSW and Equine Veterinarians Australia.

Why?

This issue is important to the whole profession as it centres on the best way to regulate veterinarians. The AVA's policy is that veterinarians should only be regulated by state and territory veterinary boards.

In the current political environment, there are ongoing and widespread pressures to de-regulate various aspects of the veterinary profession. Acts of veterinary science and regulatory regimes are under the microscope as governments want the market to regulate more and more spheres of activity. Paraprofessionals have started supplying services in the market that have been the preserve of vets in the past, and these pressures are increasing. At the same time, a second regulatory regime on vets has been established by one racing authority.

The AVA feels that moves to over-regulate and de-regulate are not in the best interests of animals, their owners, or the long-term sustainability of veterinary services.

In this broader context of pressures to both deregulate and over-regulate the profession, the AVA's concern extends beyond the interests of veterinarians. We are concerned about how these moves are likely or are already affecting the welfare of animals. Apart from protecting the consumers of veterinary services, a major reason to get the regulation of vets right is to protect the welfare of animals.

Using the example of the racing licence, the vet’s independence from the racing industry is a key and essential support for the vet’s legal responsibility to put the welfare of the animal ahead of other considerations. If that independence is undermined by stewards having power to affect a vet’s whole livelihood, then animal welfare is not going to receive the priority it deserves. A vet contravening the rules of racing or acting unprofessionally should be disciplined by a veterinary registration board, authorities that thoroughly understand a vet's obligation to protect the welfare of animals.

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