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Experts call for laws to regulate vet industry

2013-03-08 09:14 China Daily     Web Editor: Wang YuXia comment

Officials and experts have called on legislators to make a law regulating the veterinary industry and provide solutions on how to deal with animal medical disputes.

Their appeal comes amid several lawsuits involving pet owners and veterinarians. The disputes have drawn the attention of provincial authorities. 

The Jiangxi provincial department of agriculture launched a campaign on March 1 to wipe out illegal animal clinics to improve the management of the industry and establish better guidelines for people involved.

The campaign, which will last until April 15, includes checks of operating licenses, medical staff qualifications and equipment, the authority said.

In 2009, China launched a national examination for certifying verterinarians, said Wang Bin, director of veterinary management at the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Agriculture. 

So far, 3,171 have been certified in the capital, 787 of whom have become professional veterinarians.

Every month, health officials in each district check animal hospitals, Wang said, adding that operating licenses and veterinarian certificates must be posted at every clinic.

An employee at Beijing Yi Yuan Pet Clinic who did not want to be identified said they post certificates and ask veterinarians to show their qualifications before surgeries. 

Wang said the checks are just the first step toward regulating the industry. He remains concerned about the legal disputes between pet owners and vets.

Beijing's Tongzhou District People's Court has accepted a case involving a vet accused of being responsible for the death of a Tibetan mastiff worth 880,000 yuan ($141,000). The dog died last month during plastic surgery.

The mastiff's owner, named Yu, sued the vet, saying an independent source told him that his dog died of cardiac arrest from the anesthetic, and he claimed the vet had used an imported, uncertified drug.

A similar case occurred in Kunming, Yunnan province, where a dog owner sued two vets and asked them to pay 185,000 yuan in compensation after the dog and its two puppies died following a Caesarean, Chinese media reported. The owner claimed the vets were responsible for the dogs' deaths. 

"Such cases are common today in China where many residents have pets and think of them as children or friends," Wang said.

Provincial agriculture and health departments and animal associations are responsible for making regulations and checking standards at pet clinics, but there are no rules at the national level, which is why the industry has problems, Wang said. 

Dong Yi, vice-chairman of the Beijing Small Animal Veterinary Association, echoed Wang's concerns, saying they have long called for legislation on vets and industry standards.

In large cities, most medicine and equipment used to treat animals has been certified, but problems still exist in some rural areas, Dong said.

Nearly 200 clinics in the capital have become members of the association, but some "black" clinics operate without a permit, he said, adding that China doesn't have designated institutions that give appraisals after a pet dies.

"We have asked clinics to set up pet case files and conduct strict checks on the sources of medicine and equipment," he said.

Animal surgeries also have risks, he added, and when disputes arise, a third party is needed to mediate because some pet owners lack awareness of the industry.

Cui Shaoyu, 25, of Beijing, who took her cat to a clinic last week, said she is most concerned about vets' qualifications. 

"Pet owners are already worried when their dog or cat gets sick, so we often initially ignore whether the vet is qualified," she said. "To avoid disputes, I do research on the Internet on which clinic around my home is the best and get suggestions from my friends.

"But I don't know what medicines the vets use and which level the clinic is." 

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