As I said in my last post the ABTC has now completed its suite of standards for the animal behaviour and training sector but many people are asking what this means to them and how they can be listed on the various national registers. The first point to be clear about is that only organisations can be granted membership, individual practitioners cannot become members of the ABTC in their own right except by invitation of the Council. Organisations that represent practitioners should apply for membership and part of that process is to demonstrate how their practitioners meet the appropriate standard. Historically each organisation has developed its own method of assessing people based on what they deemed to be important rather than matching their requirements to a universal standard so it is no surprise that each organisation has different membership criteria. The ABTC seeks to harmonise this situation so that each organisation will be meeting the same high standards, some organisations may exceed the requirements and others may need assistance to ensure the standards are met.
As it is expected that this process will take some time the category of Accredited Animal Behaviourist (AAB) was created, it applies to all those currently carrying out the role of behaviourist with a reasonable level of education and training that does not quite meet the strict requirements of either Clinical Animal Behaviourist (CAB) or Animal Behaviour Technician (ABT), in short a ‘Grand-parenting Scheme’. Be aware though, this is not a free ticket to avoid eventually becoming qualified in one or other of these two roles. People who most appropriately fall into this category have until the end of March 2016 to get themselves onto this register, after which new applications will no longer be accepted. Those who are on the register at that time will have until the end of March 2021 to complete any gaps in their education and skill sets to transfer onto the CAB or ABT register and the AAB category will then cease to exist.
The message therefore is to either convince your organisation to join the ABTC or move to an organisation that is already a member (or is taking steps to achieve membership), I am also personally aware of at least two possible new organisations in the making based on ABTC requirements that feel too many practitioners are currently unrepresented.
This is the point at which the individual can start making a difference to animal welfare by making their needs felt to those who manage their chosen group and get on board with the ABTC, a movement that is now a permanent fixture in the animal behaviour and training sector.
At the end of June this year the ABTC published the standard for Animal Behaviour Technicians (ABT) (http://www.abtcouncil.org.uk/standards-for-practitioners.html#tech ), this latest standard completes the suite of core roles in the sector of animal behaviour and training. It provides practitioners with either a career ‘stop-point’ or a point at which they can start working with a range of behaviour issues to gain practical experience as they continue their studies towards becoming a fully qualified Clinical Animal Behaviourist.
Although training rehabilitation forms a good part of the role the main emphasis will be towards offering advice and educating owners and handlers to avoid issues arising in the first place, prevention always being preferable to cure. This makes it an ideal role for veterinary nurses, dog wardens, rescue establishment workers and many more in the animal care sector, as well as trainers and training instructors who want to progress with their education.
Inevitably there are a lot of questions about this role as it is new to the sector so I will attempt to address the ones most likely to arise:
Can I be a Canine Behaviour Technician? In a sense you can in that you can specialise in dogs but it is important that you have a working knowledge of other species too because frequently other animals form part of the social environment that dogs are kept in and therefore have an influence on their behaviour. Equally, this is a core role that applies to the animal care sector which means that people can specialise in dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, parrots or any other species they wish to hence the use of the word ‘animal’. This is the same reasoning behind Animal Behaviour and Training Council, Clinical Animal Behaviourist, Animal Trainer, Animal Training Instructor etc.
Why doesn’t the name include the word behaviourist? As there are already three standards that include the word ‘behaviourist’ (although the Accredited Animal Behaviourist will cease to exist in 2021) there is a need to create a clear distinction between the roles and avoid confusion for those engaging the services of such a practitioner. The title was the subject of lengthy discussions and as there are technicians in other parts of the animal sector it was finally decided to go with an established convention.
How do I become an ABT? As the year progresses you will find courses becoming available that are designed around the standard but in the meantime ABTC member organisations will be able to submit their members’ names for inclusion on a new register based on previous education and assessment of practical skills that satisfy the role requirements.
To the individual who has been getting on with their business of dog/horse/cat/rabbit etc behaviour therapy and/or training it may have seemed that little has happened since the flurry of activity three years ago when the ABTC was launched. Actually nothing could be further from the truth. Building an organisation with the support of the establishment that is likely to exist well into the future has proven to be quite a task, certainly not something that can be thrown together by a few well meaning individuals in the space of a few weeks or months. Nearly four years on since the first working group meeting the structure is fairly well in place and now the time is right for responsible organisations that want to be acknowledged as operating to the highest of professional standards to join those who have worked so hard to make it all happen.
All of the core standards have now been published and before the year is out you should start seeing which courses satisfy some or all of each individual standard. This will make it simpler for those joining the sector to work their way through the wide spectrum of quality and value that has characterised the industry for so long. At last people will be able to choose a meaningful career path without having to make decisions based on little more than the adverts and media ‘spin’ they are frequently presented with.
There will, no doubt, be those who will continue to resist and criticise the aims and accomplishments of the ABTC but as I have said since the beginning, anyone hearing such comments should ask themselves ‘what motive would anyone have to resist the moves to improve animal welfare that have the enthusiastic support of so many practitioners, the veterinary profession, the overwhelming majority of the animal welfare organisations, the Sector Skills Council and the Parliamentary under Secretary for Defra?’ I personally fail to see a convincing argument.
I will be posting on this subject as events unfold throughout the year and encourage supporters to spread the word, convince the doubters and join the movement that is reaching an unstoppable momentum.