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Research comment
Implementing a strategy to improve animal welfare in clinical practice – lessons from the PDSA’s approach
  1. Susan Hazel
  1. School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, University of Adelaide, Roseworthy, South Australia, Australia
  1. email: susan.hazel{at}

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What you need to know

  • An approach to animal welfare improvement that incorporates consultation with staff, clinical audit, education (of both staff and clients) and advocacy is highly effective.

  • If veterinary practices consult with staff to set outcomes to be included in regular clinical audits, real and measurable improvements in animal welfare can be made.

  • A positive feedback loop, in which staff contribute to decisions on outcomes to be measured and can see the impact of these decision in clinical audits, may improve job satisfaction and reduce workplace stress and burnout.

  • More work is needed to determine the best way to enhance discussions around ethically challenging situations in veterinary practice and relieve the moral distress that such situations may create.

In 2016, the BVA published its animal welfare strategy,1 outlining a way forward to enable improvements in animal welfare in the UK. In a study summarised on p 316 of this issue of Vet Record,2 Wensley and colleagues present compelling evidence of how the implementation of some of these recommendations has made real and measurable improvements to the welfare of animals treated by the PDSA – a UK veterinary charity.

Important areas of improvement within the organisation included an increase in the number of kittens being neutered at four months old, routine use of pain measurement tools and widespread adoption of PetWise MOTs (a quality-of-life assessment tool based on the five welfare needs laid out in the UK Animal Welfare Act).2

Failure to neuter cats early enough means that approximately 13 per cent of owned …

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