Update on our work
The Animal Ultrasound Association was established to improve the standard of ultrasound imaging for animals in the United Kingdom and, eventually, beyond. This was largely in response to the experiences of canine scanners who adopted ultrasound technology several years ago in England, Wales and Scotland in order to scan their own animals and offer a service for others. For these people, learning how to scan well and safely was essential: there were few alternatives. Many didn’t even have access to a veterinarian who owned a scanner, or at least not one with experience in using it for pregnancy scanning. A lot of breeders had to rely on sheep scanners to perform their scans, which often had to be booked weeks in advance, and the examinations were performed on ancient mechanical sector equipment which produced images barely recognisable to anyone but the operator.
To top this all off, good ultrasound machines were costly – much more so than today – meaning that this was an expensive leap into the unknown. For these first few breeders to take up ultrasound scanning for canine pregnancy detection, therefore, there was every incentive to take it seriously and get it right.
In the last couple of years, the market has definitely changed. Whether this is due to the increased visibility of lay pregnancy scanners, the explosion of cheap (and all but useless) equipment on sites such as eBay, or a combination of both, it is difficult to say. Either way, it seems like half the dog breeders in Britain seem to think they can spend £2500 on a machine, scan a handful of dogs or attend a single training day, and head off into the market to recoup their investment scanning other people’s animals.
Clearly, the situation was becoming increasingly concerning, and something had to be done. This is why the AUA was founded.
Where are we now?
A year later, the need for an accreditation body for animal scanning has become even more acute. Since the Animal Ultrasound Association’s creation, two businesses have recently begun to offer canine pregnancy scan training, with no relevant qualifications or experience. It is the opinion of the AUA and its members that ultrasound should be taught by experienced and accredited sonographers only, not by individuals who have attended a single scanning course themselves and are simply attempting to replicate it. Intellectual copyright issues aside, this is at its best misselling (akin to someone on P plates offering driving lessons), and at its worst dangerous (what are these courses teaching about biosecurity, acoustic power, ALARA and so on?).
It also puts the entire industry at risk. Professional canine scanners have served their communities alongside and in a complimentary role to their local veterinarians due to the quality and safety of their work, and it is for this reason that the veterinary profession has not gone down the same legal route with small animal scanning as it has with equine and, to a lesser degree, bovine scanning. If newcomers don’t work correctly with their veterinarians, or even if animals start showing up in vet practices with pyometra who were scanned days earlier and not correctly referred to the veterinarian at that time, this is a very real possibility.
What can we do?
We have been working to spread the word about the importance of using accredited scanners, but this is a long-term project and will be challenging for as long as we do not have accredited individuals covering all areas of the UK. Whilst people may lament the influx of people running around with scanning machines, the number of individuals who persevere and build up the necessary experience to excel in the profession are few and far between. In the whole of Scotland, for example, we have only one accredited member. In Wales, we have none.
However, it is clear that the battle is now on two fronts. We need to spread the word not only about the quality of our members to the general public – those who would use scanning services – but also get the message out to those considering entering the industry that if they are serious about doing so, they need to obtain safe equipment and training. We also need to look into legal avenues to protect our industry from these outside threats, and take action wherever possible against those offering unsafe training or misleading their trainees into what they are teaching. One attendee of one of these ‘copycat’ courses, for example, publicly stated that she was being trained to become a “Canine Sonographer.” ‘Sonographer’ is a professional qualification that takes years of work (and tens of thousands of pounds worth of training) to obtain, and as such, the use of this title is protected by law.
The AUA will now include legal protection of the lay scanning industry as part of its mission statement, with immediate effect.
April 09, 2020
January 21, 2020