Guidelines of the Veterinary Practitioners Registration Board of Victoria
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Guideline 21 - Reporting obligations

This guideline outlines the appropriate standard expected of a registered veterinary practitioner in the course of veterinary practice. It should be read in conjunction with other related guidelines.

Context to Guideline 20: Reporting obligations

Reporting of diseases, unusual deaths, adverse events and animal welfare issues

The Livestock Disease Control Act 1994 clearly sets out the responsibilities of veterinarians to notify diseases in livestock (including bees and aquatic animals) and their products. There are different notification periods relating to the potential risk posed by the disease. For example, exotic diseases require immediate notification to an inspector of stock. Notification responsibilities relate to all modes of practice but are particularly relevant to veterinary practitioners working with agricultural animals.

The obligation also refers to situations where there are unusual deaths (or disease) of unknown cause in livestock. Given that a failure to notify can impact upon national agricultural industries, there are strong penalties related to this offence. Notification obligations take precedence over public interest and the veterinary practitioner-owner-animal (VOA) relationship.

A veterinary practitioner must report an adverse event following the administration of veterinary medications to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.

It is an offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (POCTA) Act 1986 to do or omit to do an act with the result that unreasonable pain or suffering is caused, or likely to be caused, to an animal. The Board regards the reporting of causes of actual or likely unreasonable pain or suffering by animals, as an act under this legislation. Omitting to do this act (i.e. reporting) would constitute cruelty. Therefore, the Board expects registered veterinary practitioners to report all cases of cruelty to animals to the relevant authority.

The emergency powers of veterinary practitioners under the POCTA Act in relation to animal welfare take precedence over the VOA relationship.

More information and resourceson reporting of diseases: As the control agency for biosecurity emergencies, Agriculture Victoria manages emergency animal disease outbreaks within Victoria and works with national partners through the Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement (EADRA).

Responses to animal diseases are guided by the nationally agreed AUSVETPLAN.

Notifiable diseases are defined under the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994, and the obligations of livestock owners, veterinary practitioners, laboratories and others are outlined in the Act and its associated regulations and orders.

Any unusual, strange or exotic vertebrate animal found or sighted in Victoria should be reported to Agriculture Victoria. The Agriculture Victoria Customer Service Centre telephone contact is 136 186.

Concerns about peers

A veterinary practitioner has a professional responsibility to respond to serious risks impacting public health, the health and wellbeing of animals and the good standing of the profession, by the unprofessional conduct of peers.

If a veterinary practitioner is concerned about the professional conduct or fitness to practise of a professional peer, the veterinary practitioner is encouraged to talk directly with the individual whom they believe has acted inconsistently with these Guidelines.

If a veterinary practitioner’s direct action does not result in a change to their peer’s behaviour and the unprofessional conduct is repeated or may pose a serious risk to the public or the health and welfare of animals, and impacts the good standing of the profession, a veterinary practitioner should report their concern to the Board.

Reporting obligations take precedence over the preservation of confidentiality in the VOA relationship or the relationship between professional peers.

Professional conduct under this guideline is demonstrated by the following:
21.1 A veterinary practitioner, including those working in laboratories, reports “notifiable diseases” to the relevant authority. This requirement takes precedence over maintaining owner confidentiality.
21.2 Where a veterinary practitioner reasonably believes that there exists, or potentially exists, a serious risk to the health and/or safety of the public and/or the health and wellbeing of an animal, the veterinary practitioner reports the matter to the relevant authority.
21.3 Where a veterinary practitioner reasonably believes that the professional conduct of a veterinary practitioner registered in or deemed to be registered in Victoria is inconsistent with the expectations of their peers or the general public or in these Guidelines, the veterinary practitioner should report their concern to the Board.

Related guidelines

Related legislation

Date of publication
In effect from 1 May 2021.

This material is current only at the time of publication and may be changed from time to time. The Board reviews and updates the Guidelines on a continuous basis to reflect changes in the science and knowledge base underpinning contemporary veterinary practice. The Board will take reasonable steps to inform the veterinary profession when such updates are released but it remains the responsibility of the individual veterinary practitioner to ensure that their knowledge and application of these Guidelines to their own practice is current.

While the Board has made every effort to ensure that the material in these Guidelines is correct in law, it shall not be liable to any veterinary practitioner or any other person or entity in relation to any claim, action or proceeding whatsoever (whether in contract, negligence or other tort or in proceedings seeking any other form of legal or equitable remedy or relief) for any inadequacy, error or mistake, or for any deficiency in the whole or any part of this document (including any updates incorporated in the document from time to time). A veterinary practitioner or any other person or entity acting upon the contents of this document acknowledges and accepts that this is the basis upon which the Board has produced these Guidelines and made them available to such person or entity.