It seems that the business of the animal training and behaviour sector being formally recognised as a profession is taking forever and it is true to say that there have been significant delays as a result of Brexit which was swiftly followed by the Covid pandemic. The net result is that progress is about two years behind schedule but the positive news is that talks with the RCVS have re-started. For those who are not aware of what is coming, there is a new Veterinary Services Act being developed that will replace the Veterinary Surgeons Act (1966). Part of the new act will be dedicated to para-professional activities (also referred to as ‘allied professions’), behaviour and training being one such activity.
In order to be included, any para-profession must meet many criteria to demonstrate that they are regulated to a sufficiently high standard to be recognised by the RCVS and that they would be confident in linking them to their Royal Charter. There are some key issues in the process of regulation that must be met including a clear set of standards that define what educational and skills requirements are to be met by each role, how those standards are assessed and independently assured on an ongoing basis, there must be a single disciplinary process, there must be a register of all qualified practitioners, there must be evidence of strong and effective governance along with many more requirements.
Being qualified cannot be self-declared, each individual will need to be formally assessed as meeting all the criteria.
Currently the behaviour and training sector is a mosaic of different organisations doing their own thing to a spectrum of different abilities and requirements and while there is undoubtedly some overlap in what each does there is no coherent structure and therefor the sector cannot be regarded as a single profession. The only organisation that provides the detailed infrastructure of such a profession is the ABTC and this is why they are discussing the way ahead with the RCVS for inclusion in the forthcoming legislation.
ABTC are well aware of their critics, most of whom are allied to other systems that have appeared over the last 10 years to try and provide an alternative form of regulation. It is unlikely that any of these systems will offer a suitably rigorous and acceptable level of governance to be considered for the moves that are coming which is why ABTC are the focus of attention. ABTC has already attracted the support of the veterinary profession and all the major animal welfare charities. It is also the only ‘Council’ (this is a legally sensitive term that requires permission of the appropriate Secretary of State to be used in a name, the organisation should normally be a local authority, an independent advisory body, a deliberative assembly, or a governing, supervisory or representative body of an activity, trade, business or profession).
There are still more steps in the process and metaphorical hoops to jump through but change is coming that will elevate the status of trainers and behaviourists that embrace it.