Great Debate: Should there be an enquiry into the corporate takeover of the veterinary profession in the UK?

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Today (Monday 17 October) the Welsh Parliament will consider whether to hold an enquiry into the corporate takeover of the veterinary profession in Wales, following a petition signed by concerned pet owners.

The petition reads, “The 1999 legislation was changed by the UK Government which allowed veterinary practices to be owned not just by qualified veterinary surgeons. This paved the way for private equity stakeholder corporates to buy into this market. These profit driven organisations have changed the profession so that it is barely recognisable.

“In many parts of Wales, it is virtually impossible to find an independently run veterinary practice. The corporate buyout now extends to out of hours provision, referral practices as well as general practice. The corporates also own laboratories, drug companies, pet crematorium as well as shares in many pets’ food companies. Such a monopoly makes the few remaining independently run practices presence virtually untenable.”

veterinary practice

This is not a situation unique to Wales: as more and more UK vet practices are bought up by large companies, independent vets are increasingly rare; by August 2021, half of all practices were owned by just six companies.

At Dogs Today we have heard many grievances against company-owned vet practices, including increases in prices, difficulties obtaining a referral to any vets outside the group, and a distinct feeling that  – despite the vets and vet nurses working at the best of their abilities – the parent company will always put profit over animal welfare.

However, we have also heard from owners who found the service improved after a company takeover, with newer equipment and the possibility to receive routine treatment for a monthly fee and quick referrals to out-of-hours practices owner by the same firm. Prices have gone up but, they argue, that has been the case for most thing in recent years.

What do you think – should there be an enquiry into the corporate takeover of the veterinary profession in the UK?

Let us know what you think here, on Facebook, or by writing to editorial@dogstodaymagazine.co.uk with “Great Debate” in the subject line.

1 COMMENT

  1. It’s happening in the US as well and with greater potential impact because of the huge percentage of households with dogs and/or cats. Correct me if I’m wrong but 20% of households in the UK are owned by at least one cat and in 20% a dog is living. My source didn’t give the total with the overlap. Cats would say it’s easy- 20%. Only cats matter. I’d wager 30% of your households are affected by this change.

    The US has stunningly high rates of pet ownership and I think I read it’s 75%. Maybe that’s just Colorado. My hometown feels closer to 90%. Even if people are warned to check on the ownership of their vet practice they won’t because they believe it doesn’t matter. When it does, usually related to paying their bill, it’s too late.

    No matter what happens it’s terrible if standard of care suffers.

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