You’ve qualified in your chosen field, and now it’s time to register with a governing body. But how do you choose? Stephanie Bateman investigates.
Whether you qualify as a veterinary physiotherapist, a chiropractor, an osteopath or an animal masseur, all therapists become registered with a governing body after graduation. There’s a number of benefits to this. Firstly, the association is there to support its members whether they need advice or help with CPD training. Secondly, they also have their own disciplinary procedures and codes of conduct which aim to maintain the reputation and professionalism of therapists and protects animals and their owners.
In this issue, we will focus on physiotherapist and osteopaths, followed by chiropractic and massage therapy next time. The associations available for physios and osteos are shown in the panel.
- The International Association of Animal Therapist (IAAT)
IAAT is an inclusive organisation that values cooperation and collaboration. Membership of IAAT is open to all animal therapists, veterinary surgeons and nurses who hold an accredited qualification in the relevant animal therapies.
- National Association of Veterinary Physiotherapists (NAVP)
NAVP welcomes applications for membership from all veterinary physiotherapists holding a university externally moderated and accredited qualification at BSc, PgD, or MSc degree level.
- The Institute of Registered Veterinary and Animal Physiotherapists (IRVAP)
IRVAP membership community includes veterinary surgeons, veterinary physiotherapists, animal musculoskeletal practitioners, veterinary nurses, canine hydrotherapists, animal massage therapists and TTouch practitioners who are holders of animal therapy qualifications.
- Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy (ACPAT)
ACPAT members are qualified Chartered Human Physiotherapists (MCSPs) who have further trained in physiotherapy and rehabilitation for animals.
There is only one route to becoming a qualified animal osteopath and that is to do the human course first. You are then governed by The General Osteopathic Council (GOsC).
WHO’S THE DADDY?
Despite the wide variety of associations to choose from, what there isn’t is one, all-empowering official governing body for animal therapists.
"Chartered physiotherapists are registered but this is in their capacity as a human physiotherapist and not as an animal physiotherapist,” says Sherry Scott, pioneer of animal physiotherapy and founder of the IAAT. “If you see an animal physiotherapist use the term “registered” or “regulated” this would be with their own association and not with or by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). There is also no official recognition given by the RCVS to any animal physiotherapy course or association."
Most practitioners believe that an official register is required and will benefit the industry.
“It’s just a matter of time,” says chair of the NAVP Halina Tombs. “We need an RCVS led register because we need somewhere that vets and owners can go to that says all these people on the register have a similar degree and are all trained to a standard. That will take us to protection of title which means if you aren’t registered, you can’t practice, like with human therapists.”
Sherry agrees there is a place for a governing body. “The idea of having one governing body comes with umbrellas,” she explains. “It should be something that is cosy and comforting and gives you a means against the weather of all sorts of things. If people hit difficult times, they need somewhere to go. People nowadays are lucky, because when I started, there was no structure and nowhere to go for advice or support.”
Once a governing body is in operation and is officially legal, the associations become the professional interest groups and it’ll be the associations who lobby for and on behalf of their members.
“It’s important to make a point that an official register is there to protect the animal, the owner and the profession – if something goes wrong, clients can go back to the RCVS with their complaint and something will be done,” says Halina. “They would also accredit courses to ensure an overall standard. It is not there to protect, support, embrace and develop the practitioner – that is the role of the associations. The two come together but they have different jobs to do.”
With a variety of different associations to pick from, how do practitioners choose? “It’s difficult because everybody is different and what is offered is different,” says Sherry. “I don’t necessarily approve of there being lots of different registers because it’s confusing for people not only looking to register to one, but for people and for vets looking for someone to treat their animal. The important point to make is that they need to belong to something – they need the advice and people making sure they are doing the right thing. I have emails from people all over the world asking what they can and can’t do. I’m there to listen and offer advice and help people connect.”
Halina believes that most people join the association that is linked to the course they studied through. “Usually, when a course is set up, there is an association to run alongside it which is there to support the people who have been on their course,” she says. “You graduate and tend to join the association that historically produced your course.”
AND THEN CAME THE REGISTERS
To mix things up even further, there are now also two voluntary registers available for practitioners to choose from. These two registers came about as a result of a failed attempt to set up one register. They include:
- Register of Animal Musculoskeletal Practitioners (RAMP)
RAMP is a voluntary register of chiropractic, osteopathic and physiotherapy professionals who the register regards as animal musculoskeletal practitioners. Members of this register’s council have trained in human techniques before furthering their expertise in the animal sphere.
- Animal Health Professions Register (AHPR)
Membership of the AHPR is open to those who provide services for the treatment of animals under veterinary referral and for the maintenance of health. This includes chiropractic and manipulation, hydrotherapy, veterinary physiotherapy, sports therapy and massage.
Initial talks between the two registers aimed at uniting them as one governing register, couldn’t be agreed due to the ongoing differing opinions, and so there became two. Sadly not the step forward therapists had hoped for.
The IAAT embraces every form of animal therapy. All these governing bodies have their place and they can complement each other, so it’s important that we can work together. It’s about finding the common ground.”
The NAVP also welcomes cohesion amongst all the associations and will continue to support the call for one official register.
"Ultimately, we all need to work together – because our main aim has to be the welfare of the animals in our care".