The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has written to the Government, urging that veterinary practices be covered in the scope of support measures for businesses affected by Covid-19.

In letters sent to key government departments and their counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the BVA is calling for veterinary practices to be recognised as "business critical" on account of the essential services they provide that protect animal health and welfare, public health and well-being.

BVA is pointing out that the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has unveiled a £350 billion package of measures including rates reliefs and grants to support retail and hospitality businesses affected by the coronavirus, and pledged to do "whatever it takes" to keep these sectors afloat in the challenging times ahead.

Significant financial difficulty

However, according to the association, veterinary practices have so far not been included in the scope for this support, despite the fact that they will also be entering a period of significant financial difficulty and continuing to provide vital care and treatment to animals while contending with staff shortages and reduced turnover.

BVA, which represents over 18,000 vets across the UK, also calls for business rates reliefs that have already been announced for some businesses to be extended to veterinary practices, most of which are SMEs.

Eligible businesses will receive 100% rates relief for a year in England and 75% in Scotland, with Wales and Northern Ireland expected to announce similar plans shortly.

The letters also note the important role that pets have to play in providing companionship to their owners, particularly elderly and vulnerable people who may feel increasingly lonely in the months ahead.

Vets are putting stringent measures in place to keep their services running safely for everyone, as well as offering advice over the phone and making arrangements for emergency care and treatment for pets if their owners are self-isolating.

Important role of pets

Daniella Dos Santos, BVA President, said: “While BVA welcomes the scale of this response and the promise of an economic lifeline for many businesses, we are extremely concerned that these measures don’t currently extend to the veterinary profession.

Veterinary practices are a mainstay in our communities providing a critical service to keep the UK’s pets healthy as well as supporting public health and well-being.

She added: “With so many people self-isolating in the coming weeks and months, we can’t underestimate the important role that pets have to play in providing companionship and helping to boost their owners’ well-being.

"However, it is a sad fact that many practices may have no option but to close their doors for good if they aren’t eligible for the same support that’s rightly being rolled out to other businesses.

“We are asking for an assurance from governments across the UK that veterinary practices will also be included in the scope for support and recognised as a business critical service.

"Veterinary practices make such a valuable contribution to health and well-being at the heart of communities, so they need to be offered the same safety net that other businesses have been promised in the unpredictable times ahead.”