The resource plans of municipal veterinary services evaluated for the first time


<p>More than 40 official veterinary surgeons have been hired by municipalities to focus on animal health and welfare monitoring, which has improved the efficiency of monitoring considerably. According to a preliminary estimate, 42 man-years each year would be needed to ensure the fulfilment of government responsibilities for local control and monitoring of animal diseases and protection on animals. As of March 2012, already 30 man-years were allocated to these responsibilities in 44 municipalities. The resource plans and monitoring targets of the municipalities indicate that additional resources are needed, particularly in the areas of animal protection and animal health care.</p>

The insufficient level of resources allocated to monitoring activities became evident in a report by the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira that offered the first comparison between the actual veterinary tasks of municipal monitoring units and the allocated resources. The data is based on resource and task record reports from the municipalities. The Veterinary Medication Act obliges municipalities to provide preventive health-care services for productive livestock according to demand and to ensure sufficient resources for the monitoring involved.

Animal welfare is monitored by means of, for example, veterinary inspections prompted by suspicion of violations and through the annual inspection of professional animal owners that are subject to registration. In 2011, municipal monitoring units reported that the average number of inspection items and sites was 223 per man-year – i.e., at least one animal welfare inspection per working day and person. Given the driving distances and additional administrative tasks, this workload clearly exceeds the current resources.

Animal welfare inspections are demanding monitoring tasks whose implementation and follow-up require sufficient time with respect to both animal protection and the legal protection of animal-owners.

Health-care resources too are spread thinly: the average number of health-care agreements for productive livestock was 199 per man-year involved in providing animal health-care. Pig farms entering into a health-care agreement should be given several inspections a year, as should cattle farms wishing for more than the minimum level of health care.

Resources reserved for the implementation of health-care agreements for productive livestock were the most meagre in the area of the Regional State Administrative Agency of Eastern Finland, with 327 agreements per man-year reserved for health care. The situation was best in Lapland.

Although municipalities have already established more than 40 veterinary surgeon's offices, an obvious need for more remains. In addition to the number of inspection items and sites, the need for resources is affected by driving distances, regional commercial structure, administrative tasks, and participation in necessary training.

The resource estimate in Evira's report is based on the data supplied by the municipalities, which cover factors influencing the demand for services and monitoring, as well as the personnel resources available. However, the additional factors mentioned above were not taken into account. Resource-monitoring and indicators require further development.

For further information, please contact:
Senior Adviser Antti Nurminen, Animal Health and Welfare, tel. +358 400 888 612
Head of Unit Riitta Maijala, Animal Health and Welfare, tel. +358 40 159 5812

More information about veterinary service resources is available (in Finnish) from the following resources:

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