RCVS statement

RCVS announces that common canine fertility practice is now illegal in the UK


Artificial insemination (AI) is a procedure that is performed by a large number of “canine fertility clinics” in the United Kingdom, and taught by the majority of individuals and businesses which teach courses in “canine fertility.” Most of these same businesses also claim to teach ultrasound, despite having no qualifications in the subject.

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has now published a statement that “intravaginal artificial insemination of bitches is an act of veterinary surgery” from which lay people are “currently legally prohibited from doing… regardless of training or qualifications.”

The majority of Animal Ultrasound Association members (both vets and non-vets) do not offer such services, but will undoubtedly be interested in this development for a variety of reasons.

What’s a legal exemption?

If you read the full RCVS statement here, you will notice reference to the concept of a “legal exemption.” This means a DEFRA-approved system whereby lay practitioners – that means people who are not vets – can be properly trained and assessed, so that they can be issued with a certificate that enables them to perform this procedure without the supervision of a veterinarian.

No such qualification currently exists for the practice of AI – though the RCVS has been recommending one to DEFRA for many years – and this has wider implications, as the vast majority of canine fertility practices fall within this same category.

What about ultrasound?

We are aware that a number of training providers have been falsely advertising their scanning courses as “DEFRA approved” for years, as well as misleading people with irrelevant accreditations (“CPD accredited” being a favourite).

The Animal Ultrasound Association and its members have been campaigning on this issue since 2016. Unfortunately, the offending training providers have consistently ignored our warnings, because ultimately they have no real investment in the longevity of scanning, and very little genuine concern for animal welfare.

Similarly, reports from our members of malpractice by end users (consistent inaccuracies, or the attempt by lay scanners to diagnose and/or treat pathology) have fallen on deaf ears for so many years that the most experienced and responsible lay practitioners have simply had to watch as the hard-earned reputation they had built has been steadily eroded. Indeed, when members of the Animal Ultrasound Association spoke in parliament last year, it was impossible to hide frustration at the years of inaction on this issue, and the damage it has done to people and animals alike.

Whether small animal pregnancy scanning follows the path of bovine pregnancy scanning (see our video above), we cannot know for certain, but any move towards regulating our industry and raising national standards should be welcomed. The top priority of the AUA now is ensuring that our members are rewarded for their dedication to safe, high quality scanning – in many cases, for over a decade – and given the official recognition that they deserve.

Useful resources

Ultrasound training courses for non-vets

Ultrasound training courses for licensed veterinarians and vet nurses

‘Ultrasound for Canine Pregnancy Scanning’ – the book

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