Providing My Dog with Veterinary Care

Providing my dog with veterinary care

In the DOG OWNER OBLIGATIONS AND LEGAL RESPONSIBILITIES section we have shown that owners are legally obliged to ensure their dog’s welfare. This means that as the owner, keeper or carer of a dog you may commit an offence if your act, or failure to act, causes an animal to suffer unnecessarily. You may also commit an offence if you do not take reasonable steps to ensure these welfare needs are met. Protection from pain, suffering, injury and disease constitute one set of needs.  On occasion these needs may only be met with professional intervention or treatment.

It may, therefore, constitute a failure of care not to seek veterinary treatment. There is no legal requirement for owners to register their animals with a veterinary practice. However, it is strongly advisable for you to do so meet your obligations under the Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011

What happens if I cannot afford veterinary services?

There is no statutory oversight of fees for veterinary services, which can be extremely expensive. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has no specific jurisdiction under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 over the level of fees charged by veterinary practices. Fees are, therefore, essentially a matter for negotiation between the veterinary surgeon and client. The RCVA guidance requires that veterinary surgeons should be open and honest about fees for veterinary treatment and provide with clear and easy to understand information about how fees are calculated and what it is they are being charged for. However, an initial review by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in March 2024 highlighted numerous problems with the veterinary sector, including that owners may not be provided with enough information to enable them to choose the best veterinary practice or the right treatment for their animals’ needs and that they might be overpaying for medicines or prescriptions. Subsequently in May 2024 the CMA have announced a market investigation into the veterinary sector and published tips to help pet owners struggling with vet costs:

Given these costs, it is advisable for anyone considering acquiring a dog to take out insurance or otherwise make provision to ensuring that they will have adequate funds for routine and emergency veterinary treatment 

Unfortunately, there are not any ‘not for profit’ vet practices operating in Northern Ireland at present but there is a PDSA Hospital in Belfast.