Where are we now with regulation?

In December 2018 I made a prediction (see my blog ‘What it is to be regulated’) that failed to come to fruition due to the Brexit debacle. Up until the Covid-19 crisis took hold things were slowly getting back on track at the end of 2019 after being severely delayed by the impact Brexit had on the RCVS, now the whole process is back ‘on ice’ while higher socio-economic problems take priority. Very few trainers and behaviourists have any work at all at the moment and I doubt that all will survive the shutdown unscathed, whatever emerges in the future will also take a while to re-establish as a thriving industry. There will however, still be people with pets and still a need for training and behaviour work and some would suggest the need for trainers and behaviourists will be greater. It is predicted that we will experience more cases of anxiety issues once owners start getting back to work and there will be many puppies that have not been able to experience the breadth of socialisation they would have done in different circumstances. Couple an increased need with the forecasted levels of unemployment and subsequent lack of ability to pay for such services, self-employed trainers and behaviourists competing for the business under the spectre of potential reappearance of the virus and it doesn’t take much imagination to picture an industry in turmoil for a while. Regulated services will be more important than ever.

As we are all stuck at home with our internet devices for company some of the ABTC scheduled meetings and decision making are continuing and constructive work continues. Social media has helped keep people’s social interactions going and provides a positive outlet in many instances but inevitably its less constructive characteristic is there too. Rumours and fake news spread quickly at all levels. Some of the old myths about ABTC are doing the rounds again and no doubt being accepted as gospel by many, here are two examples:

Myth 1: You cannot be an ABTC behaviourist without a degree. Absolutely not so. In many cases a degree will only cover some of the academic requirements and further study may be required anyway but the important phrase is ‘degree level of study’. There is a growing number of privately delivered programmes at the correct level but be aware that they do not all qualify in terms of covering all the topics required or being of sufficient length (100 credits at level 5 and 120 credits at level 6). For the less academically inclined there is even a process of APEL (accreditation for prior experiential learning).

Myth 2: You have to go through ASAB assessment for CCAB to become an ABTC behaviourist. This has never been the case, for sure it is an option that some choose and one organisation uses it for their membership process. But any organisation can create a process of assessment that demonstrates that all their full members have their skills properly assessed and have the required knowledge and understanding to be equipped to competently carry out the work.

So what is happening about regulation right now? A number of schemes have been attempted to provide alternatives to ABTC over the last ten years and another is about to launch shortly but most largely avoid the qualification issue choosing to place their emphasis on ethical methods instead. This is fine as far as it goes and is no different to ABTC in that respect but they miss the point of regulation. The latest scheme is no different and is claiming that ‘for the first time the dog training industry will have a clear, unified voice’ and ‘Most importantly everything will be supported by an independent oversight structure – the first time this has been put in place within the industry’, this is, of course, far from the case. I lose count but it must be the fifth or sixth such scheme and as with all the others it does not do everything that ABTC has been doing for the past ten years.

There are five crucial elements to any regulatory framework and any organisation that does not meet them all falls short of the mark, they are:

  1. Governance must be independently accountable and transparent
  2. Defined technical competence based on a standard body of knowledge (academic requirements).
  3. Defined technical competence based on a standard of performance criteria (assessment of skills)
  4. Complaints and disciplinary procedure must be in place.
  5. Standards of ethical personal and business practice including customer service, financial probity and advertising must be adhered to.

ABTC is the only organisation that meets all these requirements and remains poised to go through the RCVS accreditation process when circumstances permit. This will be the single most important step so far in the industry’s development, it is not just important, it is essential because it is an absolute requirement of formal Defra recognition that any such regulatory body is independently accredited. Nothing short of this will be accepted. Any scheme that does not meet these requirements, no matter how well intentioned, is simply misleading people and creating more confusion in an industry that is crying out for clarity.

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