Guidelines of the Veterinary Practitioners Registration Board of Victoria
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Guideline 2 - Animal wellbeing

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 2: Animal wellbeing

A veterinary practitioner is trained to assess animal health and wellbeing. This training is exercised through the application of their skills and applied knowledge to optimise the care and management of animals.

A veterinary practitioner should take all reasonable steps to safeguard the wellbeing of animals in line with contemporary animal welfare standards. A veterinary practitioner should consider the animal species, their physical environment and their particular circumstances when making decisions relating to the physical health, behavioural and mental health requirements of an animal. The same approach to animal wellbeing does not necessarily apply to all species in all circumstances.

Optimising the wellbeing of the animal receiving veterinary services guides a veterinary practitioner in making their professional judgements. A veterinary practitioner should consider what is in the best interest of the animal’s wellbeing when advising the animal’s owner on its care, treatment, prognosis and management.

A veterinary practitioner who performs a procedure prohibited under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 for other than therapeutic reasons is demonstrating unprofessional conduct.

Professional conduct under this guideline is demonstrated by the following:
2.1 A veterinary practitioner can demonstrate that their professional judgement, as well as the veterinary services they provide to an animal, considers the animal’s best interests and wellbeing.
2.2 A veterinary practitioner takes appropriate and timely steps to reduce or eliminate an animal’s unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress.
2.3 A veterinary practitioner who performs a procedure on an animal ensures that the animal undergoing the procedure is provided with effective pain relief to alleviate, prevent or reduce unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress during and for an appropriate amount of time following the procedure. 
2.4 A veterinary practitioner only provides surgical or medical intervention in relation to an animal's inheritable condition or disease if a failure to treat that condition or disease would cause unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress to the animal and/or would place another animal at risk of harm or injury.
2.5 A veterinary practitioner satisfies themselves, and can provide evidence, that any person acting under their supervision, direction and/or authority who performs a procedure on an animal is appropriately trained and has competency to be able to perform the procedure.
2.6 A veterinary practitioner engages in veterinary practice in accordance with current relevant animal wellbeing and welfare legislation, standards and codes.


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.