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Perceptions of responsibility and capability for treating wildlife casualties in UK veterinary practices
  1. E. Barnes, BSc, RVN, CertVNES and
  2. M. J. Farnworth, BSc, MSc, PhD
  1. School of Biological Sciences, Plymouth University, Drake Circus, Plymouth, Devon PL4 8AA, UK
  1. E-mail for correspondence: barnes.mle{at}gmail.com

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Attribution of responsibility for, and management of, wildlife patients can be problematic. National annual caseload estimates range from 30,000–40,000 (Molony and others 2007) to 71,000 (Grogan and Kelly 2013). Veterinary attitudes towards provision of wildlife care in primary practice, and any benefits or disadvantages associated with it, remain largely unexplored in the peer-reviewed literature.

Educating care providers and treating wildlife are considered important in an international context (Vogelnest 2008, Miller 2012). However, no government department or non-governmental organisation accepts sole responsibility for wildlife health in the UK meaning interested organisations may have different or competing core concerns (e.g. population health v individual health). Therefore, issues surrounding wildlife casualties are often unclear (Duff and others 2010).

Veterinary professionals must consider multiple laws pertaining to wildlife casualty management (e.g. Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981) including species-specific legislation, and the regulatory requirement to provide veterinary first aid and analgesia (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) 2012:1.4). The treatment of wildlife casualties also raises ethical dilemmas (Kirkwood 2000, McCallum and Hocking 2005, Cooper and Cooper 2006), such as whether to treat or to euthanase given the stress associated with treatment (Stocker 2005) and likelihood of successful release.

The public's perception is that all veterinary practices can treat injured wildlife (Cooper and Cooper 2006). Charities may advise that such cases be directed to veterinarians (e.g. Royal Society for …

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