This is an alarming recent headline from the Daily Mail newspaper in the U.K.

‘The vet giants who are preying on our pets: Calls for inquiry as equity vultures snap up animal treatment practices amid rising bills and welfare fears.’

This is a real concern for anyone with animals. There are some notable figures, both political and veterinary, calling for the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA,) regulators of monopolies and mergers, to conduct an inquiry into these acquisitions of veterinary practices.

Our traditional independent veterinary services are fast disappearing across the U.K. with more than half of our veterinary practices now owned by six companies, three of which are equity companies. These corporate investors own groups of veterinary surgeries, referral hospitals and out-of-hours emergency facilities. Any specialist referrals made by the general practice vets working within a group are to clinics within the same group. The pet owners are not given a choice of specialist care providers.

The days of phoning the local vet at 3 a.m. and getting a sleepy response to your emergency call, are distant memories for many of us. We are losing the personal touch, a key part of which is the mutual trust and respect built up over time with our regular vets and their staff.

The emergency veterinary hospitals are often staffed by newly qualified vets taking temporary positions for experience purposes. They deal with whatever comes their way, sometimes without the support of experienced vets and specialists. Mistakes are being made. A young vet mis-read an x-ray, sending a bitch home with a puppy still inside her, saying ‘the x-ray is 100% accurate, there was nothing left inside’. A potentially serious mistake. A radiographer arriving for their shift, checked the x-ray and discovered the vet’s error, too late for the puppy.

Independent veterinary practices that previously shared emergency cover have signed up to the expensive out-of-hours services of these groups, making it the only option available to owners requiring urgent treatment for their animals. Good or bad, it is all that is available. It is making people think hard before seeking help, sometimes with sad consequences.

The value of veterinary services in the UK is £4.5 billion. making it an attractive proposition for investment companies, but sadly, not for pet owners and breeders.

Hopefully, an inquiry will halt the buy-out of our veterinary practices before it is too late.

Marian Mynott (Honeybet Cavaliers)
Article shared with kind permission of Mrs Marion Mynott and the CKCSC-USA Bulletin magazine

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