Chief Veterinary Officer opens second Improve International conference – Nigel Gibbens highlighted the role of OVs in safeguarding animal welfare at the start of the successful two-day event - Veterinary Practice
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Chief Veterinary Officer opens second Improve International conference – Nigel Gibbens highlighted the role of OVs in safeguarding animal welfare at the start of the successful two-day event

Over 200 delegates gathered in Swindon in September 2016 for two days of talks on the theme of “Safeguarding Animal Welfare – the Role of the OV.

The second OV Conference took place at Improve International’s UK Headquarters, Alexandra House near Swindon in September 2016, and focused on “Safeguarding Animal Welfare – the Role of the OV.” The event attracted over 200 delegates and was sponsored by iM3 and Pet-id Microchips among others. David Babington, MD of Improve International, said “Talking to delegates during the two days, I was particularly impressed with the level of enthusiasm they showed. It was clear that they really did want to hear the latest thinking from the experts and to put their new knowledge into practice. The exhibition of products and services of relevance to OVs was also very well-supported. We are delighted at the positive feedback we have received from speakers, delegates and exhibitors.”

The conference offered 12 hours of CPD over two days, enabling OVs to expand their knowledge and secure their revalidation requirements. There were three simultaneous streams covering small animal, large animal and equine aspects of OV work, and 25 speakers from across Europe shared their specialist knowledge with delegates. The conference programme was a great opportunity to listen to – and interact with – some of the leading APHA vets and practitioners; delegates also had the opportunity to discuss current issues with other OVs and APHA vets who are experts in their field.

Delegates also enjoyed meeting a wide range of commercial exhibitors, from PLH Medical to Woodley Equipment Company, providing opportunity to discuss the latest technologies and services available to the industry.

An impressive range of specialist speakers

The headline speaker at the event was Nigel Gibbens, the UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer. In his opening remarks, he described how OVs have a crucial role in the UK, saying that the work of the Official Veterinarian is essential to protecting the health and welfare of our animals in small and large animals practice, as well as in food safety and security and public health. OVs have a role in ensuring that farmers understand where they are within the food business. We need our official veterinarians to have the best skills, be highly trained and motivated. He also remarked on the importance of a network of government vets and OVs and the necessity of good communication between them.

Peter Jinman, Chair of the RCVS Certification Sub-committee, talked about certification problems in both large animal and equine sessions. He reviewed the RCVS 10 principles of certification; completing a certificate and understanding the requirements of certification is one of the key aspects of being recognised by society as a member of a profession. Interestingly, all the recent complaints relating to OV certification were for OVs with grandfather rights and not new OVs.

In the large animal streams, topics ranged from the welfare aspects of on-farm slaughter by Juan Velarde to “Notifiable and Reportable Diseases in Animals that are Potential Zoonoses – an Update on the Situation in the UK” from Lesley Larkin of Public Health England.

Amanda Carson talked about the risk of Bluetongue, and the risk that the disease can move from other European countries to infect ruminants in the UK. She gave a detailed history of Bluetongue in the UK, clinical signs and possible treatment. Midge spread is unpredictable and OVs should understand why it is so important to detect and report the disease. Those intending to import animals from mainland Europe are advised to carefully check the location that animals have or may have come from and seek advice from the import section of APHA to assess the risk of importing disease.

Different aspects of TB were covered by APHA specialists. Alan Huxtable presented an update of TB in the UK and Jo Wheeler talked about TB in other species. TB is not confined to cattle; Jo showed different images and described various cases including one of confirmed TB in a seal. Jonathan Khan explained how TB spoligotypes are used to investigate the origin of TB infection in herds.

The small animal stream examined pet passports, important diseases related to pet travel and the illegal import of puppies. Ismael Salcedo from the APHA Imports Team presented a helpful talk around the topic of the pet passport – how to get it right every time. During 2015 there were 2,367 non-compliant pets with UK passports. Ismael went through all the sections of the pet passport, explaining the most common mistakes vets make in practice, what to do when this happens and how to amend them.

Ian Wright presented twice, both on rhipicephalus sanguineus and the transmission of tick borne diseases, and disease threats to UK pets from the introduction of exotics diseases. Both presentations were really well received by OVs thanks to Ian’s lively style addressing this hot topic, which clients ask OVs about all the time. Rhipicephalus sanguineus is not currently endemic in the UK, but animals and people can be infected while abroad. Ian also talked about established threats, the usual suspects, heartworm (dilofilaria immitis), leishmania infantum and echinococcis multilocularis, which is a significant zoonosis.

Sharon Edwards, who works for the City of London’s Animal Health and Welfare Services, revealed the shocking scale of illegal puppy imports. She described some of the investigations that she has been involved with and highlighted the clues OVs should looks out for when presented with puppies of suspect origin.

The equine side covered topics around the international horse trade – from importing through border inspection posts by Livio De Nary to the welfare aspects of equine dentition by Chris Pearce. Allison Williment and Hannah Westen from World Horse Welfare described the issue of fly grazed horses and the consequences. Grazing horses on either public or private land without permission poses an enormous risk from the point of view of both animal welfare and public health. Allison also described how the staff at World Horse Welfare are able to help OVs; they have 16 welfare officers around the UK and a welfare advice line.

Linda Smith, who is the Veterinary Head of Careers, Education and Quality at APHA, explained the procedure of being a witness in court. She gave a down to earth account of how a court functions, how to prepare to be a witness and how you should behave in court.

The conference dinner was the social highlight of the twoday event, with many guests taking advantage of being able to book onsite accommodation. Following the meal, Alan Wight gave an eloquent and amusing speech on the life of a veterinary pathologist.

Looking ahead to the 2017 conference

This year the conference will focus on the topical theme of “Safeguarding International Trade through Disease Control and Surveillance” and will again be held at Alexandra House near Swindon from 21-22 September. Small animal and large animal streams will again run over the two days of conference, while equine lectures taking place on day one and interactive workshops on day two. The workshops will cover the more specialist OCQ(V)s such as Product Exports (PX), Avian Exports (AX) and Germinal Products Exports (PX), providing those specialising in all areas of OV work between 6-12 hours of CPD.

New speakers join the line-up for 2017, including Alan Wight, a Veterinary Investigation Officer at APHA, Michael Standford BVSc FRCVS from the Veterinary Defence Society, Ifan Lloyd MRCVS, a partner at St. James Veterinary Group, and Antony Duignan from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Ireland. Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens will also lead a lecture this year, focusing on ‘International Trade post-Brexit’.

The main highlights from the three streams include: (* indicates a lecture title is TBC)

Large animal: Certification Pitfalls in Large Animal Practice and How to Avoid Them; On the Scene – Investigating Avian Influenza 2016/17*; Animal By-Products – What are the Risks at Farm Level?

Small animal: The International Movement of Pets and the Control of Parasitic Disease; Certification Pitfalls in Small Animal Practice and How to Avoid Them; Backyard Poultry – What the Small Animal OV Needs to Know

Equine: Certification Pitfalls in Equine Practice and How to Avoid Them; Step-by-Step to Successful Equine Export Certification*; Equine Passports and Medication Control*; Pre-Export Testing of Horses – Guidance and Procedures*

We will also see the return of conference favourite Ian Wright, Head of ESCCAP UK and Ireland, who received resoundingly positive feedback for his informative lectures and engaging style of speaking following the 2016 event.

Official Veterinarians choosing to attend for two days and really make the most of the CPD on offer can upgrade their ticket by booking the OV Dinner, Accommodation and Breakfast. This encompasses the conference dinner on Thursday evening, a great chance to chat with fellow OVs, experts from APHA, other animal-health related organisations and experts from private practice in a more informal setting, as well as on-site accommodation at Alexandra House Hotel and breakfast the following morning. At Alexandra House all delegates can enjoy a buffet lunch and array of refreshments throughout the day, including hot and cold drinks and snacks.

There will be a supporting commercial exhibition, made up of a wide range of companies with products and services of direct interest and benefit to veterinary professionals. This includes Nova Laboratories, who join the conference as gold sponsors in 2017, with Pet-ID Microchips and PLH Medical supporting the event as silver sponsors. iM3, Woodley Equipment Company, Petair UK and Abaxis UK also join the exhibition as bronze sponsors.

We look forward to welcoming you to Alexandra House in September.

To book your place for the 2017 OV Conference, visit:

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