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Canine fertility clinics breaching lockdown
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By Josh Loeb

There is ‘absolutely no welfare justification’ for continuing to provide routine canine reproductive services at the present time, the president of the BVA has said.

The warning from Daniella Dos Santos followed reports that some canine fertility clinics remain open and operational – even though the services they provide are not essential.

Dos Santos did not name clinics suspected of breaching emergency Covid-19 lockdown rules designed to protect public health, and the BVA also declined to name any.

However, Vet Record has seen evidence from the Facebook page of Tudor House Animal Care, a fertility clinic and breeder assistance business in the Midlands, suggesting that it helped arrange an English bulldog mating earlier this month while the lockdown was in place.

The clinic has other such matings ‘booked in’ and has carried out canine pregnancy scans during the lockdown, its Facebook page suggests. Several vets have privately spoken to this journal expressing fury about such behaviour.

Vet Record emailed Tudor House Animal Care last week to ask why it appears to be continuing to provide non-essential services at the current time but has received no response.

Dos Santos has previously indicated that clinics breaking rules on what may and may not be provided to clients during the Covid-19 lockdown could bring the profession into disrepute by putting people’s lives at risk.

The RCVS declined to specifically confirm that providing non-essential canine breeding services during the current lockdown period could potentially constitute a disciplinary offence.

However, a spokesperson for the college said: ‘While we do not want to comment on any specific examples, we would like to take this opportunity to remind veterinary practices that, in order to comply with the government’s restrictions and safeguard public health, the number of clients they see face-to-face should be kept to a minimum and social distancing rules need to be maintained.

‘Practices may offer their clients advice and veterinary services via remote means, and both the RCVS and the BVA have produced further guidance on this, which is available on our respective websites.

‘Any practices that have queries about the RCVS guidance – which is under regular review in the current situation and can be found at www.rcvs.org.uk/coronavirus – should contact our standards and advice team by email on advice@rcvs.org.uk.’

The Kennel Club has previously said that anyone planning to breed dogs during the lockdown should ‘consider the difficulties around socialising puppies in the current climate, the potential of you getting poorly and not being able to care for your puppies or dogs, whether your local vet will be able to assist if needed, and how to deal with prospective owners responsibly when the public have been told they must stay at home and avoid others unless absolutely essential.’

In her weekly Covid-19 webinar on 12 April, Dos Santos went further, saying: ‘Continuing breeding right now may result in puppies that might not be able to get out and be socialised properly because we don’t know how long the restrictions are going to carry on for. Mating a dog today is probably not a good idea from an animal welfare perspective.’

There is absolutely no welfare justification for continuing right now

On fertility clinics, she said: ‘Routine reproductive work such as artificial insemination in dogs – there is absolutely no welfare justification for continuing right now. Therefore there is no justification in asking our clients to travel for that.’

Earlier this year Vet Record revealed how the number of canine fertility clinics in the UK has been rising, linked to the rise in the popularity of brachycephalic breeds (VR, 8 February 2020, vol 186, pp 140–141). An analysis by this journal found that many such clinics are not run by vets and do not have a vet on site but appear to offer veterinary services such as blood sampling and caesareans.

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