Panorama – “It Shouldn’t happen at a Vets” – our thoughts

As someone who has been running a pet cemetery and crematorium for the last 25 years I deal with veterinary surgeries on a regular basis. Whilst some practices may be more efficient than others they are staffed by people who genuinely care about the animals and do their best for them.

Vets have always been regarded as trusted professionals and although their clients will complain about the level of fees most are happy to pay for the training, experience and commitment that veterinary staff give them. Of course all veterinary practices have to be run as businesses but in order to maintain the trust of the clients the business decisions must be seen to be fair and in accordance with the general idea of professional practice. The rise of practice managers and corporate veterinary chains has introduced a blatant commercial aspect into the presentation of the work that does not sit easily with our image of the professional. However, pet owners as laymen have to trust vets to do what is right for their pets. If that trust disappears then the working relationship between vet and client becomes very difficult.

In my experience the vast majority of vets are very trustworthy which makes me think the BBC must have had advance information about this particular vet before they started the investigation. Either that or they were lucky in the company they picked to investigate.

Vets may generally be trusted to give you their expertise while your pet is alive. However, the majority fall short when providing a cremation service. Vets have no knowledge of this area and yet will pass pets’ bodies over to companies in the mistaken belief they are all the same. The decision to use a cremation company is usually based on the level of profit they make and the fact that the company will also take away all the veterinary waste from the practice. Pet crematoria are not all the same and most pet owners would be upset to find out the truth about what goes on behind the scenes. The majority of pet owners who request a cremation do not get the service they expect and pay for. This is far more common than the cases illustrated in the Panorama report.

The Association of Private Pet Cemeteries & Crematoria is the only organisation setting standards for this sector and has tried to get Veterinary Associations to issue guidelines to ensure services are correctly sold. Up to now the RCVS and BSVA have seemed reluctant to interfere in vets’ businesses. Perhaps the Panorama investigation will change that for the better.

The responses from the RCVS and the BSAVA about the programme can be seen on the links below.

Go to our pet cremation service article to see details about how vets may be choosing a cremation service. Come to us or go to one of our fellow members of the APPCC to be sure of getting a genuine cremation service.

Stephen Mayles


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