The Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA) has announced it will begin a three-phased approach to relaunching its physical on-farm inspections for its assurance scheme.

A statement made to RSPCA Assurance farmers read: “As Covid-19 restrictions ease, we are starting to roll out our phased approach to in-person farm assessments.

“This three-phase approach has been designed to help us safeguard the welfare of our members and their animals.

“On June 1, we will begin phase one of our plan to get back to physical in-person farm audits.

From Monday, members in England due an assessment will be offered the opportunity to take part in a ‘contactless’ assessment. These will only be carried out with the mutual agreement of both the assessor and member, and will not be mandatory.

“In cases where in-person assessments are not possible, we will continue with live streaming assessments.”

Different phases in different regions

The society explained that it may operate different phases in different parts of the UK as the devolved governments in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland offer different guidelines over Covid-19 restrictions.

The RSPCA added that the timings of the move to the next phase will be subject to the latest Government Covid-19 guidance.

“Members will all receive advance notice when we move between phases; as far as possible, we will attempt to give advance notice of moving from one phase to the next,” the briefing notice added.

Decisions to move between phases will be taken only after an extensive review of all available information including current Government guidance

“Phase one farm visits will only be by mutual agreement between RSPCA Assured and the member.”

It added that over the coming months, it may be necessary to move back and forth between phases depending on reviews.

‘Contactless’ assessment

In line with the latest government guidelines, strict social distancing measures will be observed by RSPCA Assured assessors.

The society added that to further safeguard the welfare of both farmers and its assessors, it had also developed its own ‘contactless’ guidelines.

The contactless assessment guidelines say assessors should wear a facemask, overall
and cover boots on farms and not accept any refreshments.

All necessary documentation, medicines or equipment must be prepared in an indoor area, preferably remote from staff restrooms or the dwelling house to avoid any unnecessary contact with other people present at the site.

It also says farmers may be asked to help assessors by moving things as required from a safe distance to eliminate handling.

Phase 2 and 3

Phase 2 will see the reinstatement of contactless assessments under a normal schedule.

In-person physical visits using our contactless protocol will resume to farms and for all members.

Any member experiencing exceptional circumstances should discuss these with their assessor during their scheduling call. These will then be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Phase 3 will include a return to normal in-person assessment scheduling with the continued use of the RSPCA’s new contactless protocol.