Introduction to the Guidelines
The veterinary profession in Victoria plays a key role in protecting the health and well-being of both animals and people. Veterinary practitioners play a crucial role in the diagnosis and control of animal diseases through their treatment of sick and injured animals, as well as providing a valuable resource of advice to the public on how to appropriately care for companion and production animals. The veterinary profession is essential to protecting Victoria’s reputation for producing clean and safe agricultural produce and maintaining the state’s biosecurity system. The veterinary profession also has an important role in maintaining the integrity of the sporting animal industries in Victoria. Through the profession’s contribution to research and teaching, the future wellbeing of animals and the public is assured.
The Veterinary Practitioners Registration Board of Victoria (the Board
) is a regulatory body whose purposes under the Veterinary Practice Act 1997
- to protect the public by ensuring veterinary practitioners are registered, appropriately qualified and maintain appropriate standards of veterinary practice
- to investigate the professional conduct and fitness to practise of registered veterinary practitioners.
The Act states the functions of the Board and provides the Board with all powers necessary to enable it to perform its functions. Section 62(1)(e) of the Act describes one function of the Board is to issue guidelines about appropriate standards of veterinary practice and veterinary facilities.
This document contains Guidelines issued by the Board and subject to regular review. Board Guidelines establish principles or practice of general applicability and do not provide decisions or advice on particular situations.
Purpose of these Guidelines
The purpose of the Guidelines is to:
- set out the standard expected by the Board from veterinary practitioners in the delivery of veterinary services
- acknowledge the public’s shared responsibility for the wellbeing of animals in their engagement with the veterinary profession, and
- formally notify the veterinary profession and the public what actions demonstrate professional conduct of an appropriate standard of veterinary practice.
These Guidelines seek to assist and support veterinary practitioners to deliver appropriate, effective services within an ethical framework. Veterinary practitioners have a professional responsibility to be familiar with these Guidelines and to apply the guidance they contain.
These Guidelines may be used to:
- support individual practitioners in the challenging task of providing an appropriate standard of veterinary care and fulfilling their professional roles
- provide a framework to guide professional practice
- assist the Board in their role of protecting the public by setting and maintaining appropriate standards of practice. These Guidelines may be used when evaluating the professional conduct of practitioners. If professional conduct varies significantly from these Guidelines, practitioners should be prepared to explain and justify their decisions and actions. Serious or repeated failure to meet these Guidelines may lead to a finding of unprofessional conduct.
- contribute to a veterinary practitioner’s response against an allegation of unprofessional conduct as part of a Board investigation, and
- guide the public and consumers of veterinary services about what is an appropriate standard of veterinary practice and the standard of behaviour they should expect from veterinary practitioners.
The Guidelines are not exhaustive and do not cover the complete range of veterinary practice. A veterinary practitioner’s work is diverse. Veterinary services, whether in clinical or non-clinical practice, extend beyond engaging with individual owners and animals to include food safety, public health and biosecurity.
It is accepted that there is not necessarily one right choice in every set of circumstances and that the Guidelines cannot define how every situation must be managed.
The Guidelines assist a veterinary practitioner to evaluate situations (whether in relation to a clinical matter or not) and make competent and reasonable decisions about the most appropriate course of action.
Acting in contravention of a Guideline does not necessarily of itself constitute unprofessional conduct. However, a veterinary practitioner should be able to provide compelling reasons for all actions they take and produce evidence of their decision-making.
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.