New recognised standards for equine dental treatment are being proposed to bring clarity and improved safety for horse owners.
The British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) and the British Association of Equine Dental Technicians (BAEDT) are working with the RCVS, BVA, BVDA, WWAED and LANTRA to develop National Occupational Standards that will pave the way to allowing equine dental technicians the freedom to work within the Law under an Exemption Order.
Currently all equine dental care falls within the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (VSA) and, as such, should only be carried out by vets. Equine vets from BEVA and equine dental technicians from the BAEDT have been trying to address this anomaly with government for many years. In 2004 the organisations drew up a list (revised in 2009) of procedures that could be safely carried out by suitably qualified equine dental technicians and a list of those which should only be carried out by qualified vets because they involve sensitive tissues.
Equine vet, Kieran O'Brien of EqWest Equine Veterinary Clinic, Devon, feels this initiative is long overdue to protect horse welfare. He commented: "There has been a need for some time to regulate the army of dental technicians now working on horses' teeth and to clarify what they can and cannot do without veterinary supervision."
Devon-based equine dental technician Bill Lomas welcomed the news. "There has always been differences between all the associations with all their various opinions over which they have been arguing for years but getting nowhere – if all the parties can get together to make things easier to understand it would be a good thing."
He added: "I'm not aware of a school of equine dentistry currently set up in this country so hopefully clear standards will set a foundation to allow this. I had to go to the USA to train so if things are made easier here that would also make big difference."
The envisaged Exemption Order will also provide better protection for horses and their owners by reinforcing the fact that only suitably qualified individuals are allowed to carry out equine dental care and treatments. While unqualified individuals should become easier to identify under the proposed new scheme, those qualified will also be held to account if their performance is not up to scratch.
The first step towards the Exemption Order is the drawing up of National Occupational Standards for Equine Dental Technicians. It is hoped that these will be formalised by LANTRA in early 2013.
Keith Chandler, BEVA President said: "After many years of working closely with the BAEDT on the continuing education and qualification of its members, we are thrilled that progress is finally being made towards an Exemption Order."
BAEDT Chair, Gemma Lilly, added: "BAEDT and its membership is very happy to be a key part of the team that hopes to put the Exemption Order in place – it will be good news for equine dental technicians, horse owners, and their animals."