Categories: Veterinarians

Coronavirus pandemic: Are veterinarians ‘key workers’ and are their businesses ‘essential’?

In the UK it is not clear that veterinarians working in companion animal practice can be considered ‘key workers’ (as at the date of this post). In the UK, some workers are considered ‘key workers’ which allows their children to go to school. The schools are shut except to provide a service to the children of key workers. My understanding is that the situation is confused worldwide.

Should veterinary clinics be classified as essential businesses when providing services to companion animals? Photo: Getty Images.

The question, universally, for veterinarians and I’d say cat and dog guardians is whether veterinarians carrying out standard work in relation to companion animals can be considered to be vital work and accordingly the vets described as key workers. Is their work in treating companion animals essential? What about the sick cats and dogs currently undergoing treatments? Are their lives at stake?

The UK government has issued guidelines but according to the Royal Collage of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) it is not clear that vets working in companion animal practice can be considered key workers.

They rely on the vets themselves to make a decision on this. This vagueness leads to the question as to whether veterinary clinic are open and functioning normally. If companion animal vets with children are not key workers they may have to stay at home to care for their children. This would result in the possible closure of some clinics.

The problem is a worldwide one as in Canada, for example, there was a recent discussion on whether their vets provide an essential service. The clinics have changed the way they operate to provide protection against Covid-19 while remaining open. It appears that some are doing what they consider to be essential work. This might not include spaying and neutering of cats for example.

It is a confused situation as at the date of this post.

USA – do vets run essential businesses?

As at March 17, 2020, the AVMA (the vets’ association) were arguing that their members run essential businesses. But this means that the status of ‘essential business’ has not yet been conferred on veterinary clinics. Has this changed? Please comment.

Conclusion: It is a developing situation. I don’t know what is happening except that it is probable that some vets are open in a restricted way and employing methods to avoid Covid-19 transmission. It is not clear that veterinarians providing companion animal services are classified as key workers or that their services are classified as ‘essential businesses’. Vets providing services to farmers are key workers and their businesses are essential as their work supports food production.


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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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