To what extent are veterinary practices prepared to treat wildlife patients? A cross-sectional study of perceptions of responsibility and capability of treating wildlife in UK veterinary practices

Emily Barnes


Attribution of responsibility for wildlife is ambiguous, which can be problematic for those inextricably associated with wildlife care and managing decision-making processes, including veterinary professionals within general practice. Large numbers of wildlife casualties are frequently presented to veterinary practices. But there are few published data detailing this demand, the ability to respond to this demand, the attitudes towards this role and any benefits or disadvantages associated. This paper adopts a cross-sectional design involving a semiquantitative online questionnaire to develop understanding of the interface between veterinary practices and wildlife casualty management. The questionnaire was distributed to 1,706 veterinary practices in the UK. Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses returned a total of 180 questionnaires (11% response rate). The findings revealed that most veterinary practices were willing to treat wildlife patients (85%) and the numbers treated were substantially higher than previous estimates. Data were analysed using non-parametric statistical techniques. There was a significant correlation between total numbers of wildlife treated in veterinary practices and their ‘total knowledge’ (p < 0.001) and facilities (p < 0.001). There was a significant correlation between practices that perceived treating wildlife benefitted the practice overall and total numbers treated (p = 0.016). Recurrent benefit themes included experience, knowledge, personal satisfaction, team morale and public relations. The findings suggest the capability of veterinary practices to treat wildlife casualties would improve with additional financial support and dissemination of information on wildlife rehabilitation and outcomes within the veterinary community. Further research is needed to enhance generalizability of these findings to the population.

Key words: attitudes, capability, responsibility, treatment, United Kingdom, veterinary practice, wildlife casualty.

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