People considering buying dogs and cats for Christmas are being asked to check if they have access to a vet before buying due to shortages caused by Brexit and Covid.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is urging caution after a surge in demand for vets due to increased pet ownership in lockdown and new legal requirements for Brexit checks on food exports to the European Union.
The BVA’s comments come just days after the Food Standards Agency warned meat and poultry producers that a shortage of veterinarians could affect meat supply over Christmas.
BVA vice president James Russell said a shortage of vets could also affect pets. “If you’re thinking, ‘We should have a puppy or a kitten or something,’ then part of the due diligence, really, is thinking ‘How am I going to take care of this animal during its lifetime?'” “I’m going to think, Where am I going to get veterinary care for this animal?”
“We encourage people to check in with their local vets to see: Are they receiving clients at the moment? What happens after hours?” he said. “These kinds of questions, to make sure that they are actually in a position to fulfill their obligation to be able to find veterinary care for those animals when they need it.”
The warnings come amid unprecedented demands for veterinarians in the wake of Britain’s exit from the European Union. All exporters of meat and fish to the European Union are required to have veterinarians or veterinary officers to certify the entry of food into Europe.
Earlier this year, some fish exports from Scotland were halted because Brexit rules require every crate of seafood to be checked and signed as healthy by vets before being put on a truck for Dover.
Russell said the new certification process was taking too long from the vet. “From January 1 to the end of September, our professionals spent 210 years of time completing health certificates for export,” he said.
More than 3.2 million households in the UK have brought pets home since the start of the pandemic, according to the latest report from the Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA), the trade body representing the pet food industry.
Part of the problem, Russell said, was that many of the vets working in the UK were from the EU, especially those working in slaughterhouses. We are seeing far fewer of those coming into the country. Both are a combination of Brexit and Covid.”
On Wednesday, a senior government official told the Public Accounts Committee that the UK had brought together enough veterinarians and veterinary officials to conduct checks on foods and animals by offering free training to those willing to do the work.
However, the panel’s chair, Labor MP Meg Heller, questioned whether working with the exporters was diverting veterinarians from “dealing with cats, dogs or sheep” and “all their own practices”.