THE WCB VISION
SELF POLICED ‘WILDLIFE CARE’ REGULATION FROM WITHIN THE WILDLIFE RESCUE/REHABILITATION COMMUNITY
As the Wildlife Rescue Industry is unregulated in Wales, England and Northern Ireland, whenever a member of the public takes a wildlife casualty to a Wildlife Rescue or Rehabber, they can't know in advance - unless it is one of the few very large centres - whether they are dropping that animal off at the welfare equivalent of a hospital or a horror shop.
It is even the case that, unless a Vet Practice or Wildlife Rescue actively visits and closely works with local (and other) Wildlife Rescues/Rehabbers in their area, even they find it impossible, observing from the outside, to judge if the Wildlife Rescues in question really have the right knowledge/structure to rehab the wildlife who come into their care versus who, despite good intentions, accidentally cause a great deal of suffering, through misdiagnosis, illegal and ill given medications and more...
The Wildlife Care Badge has been launched to change all that...
The Wildlife Care Badge is about placing ‘wildlife rights’ at the heart of wildlife rehabilitation efforts.
Our 'goal' (around which all of our work revolves) is that ALL wildlife casualties across the UK are helped/treated/served in such a way as to align with these basic rights...
- The right to only be taken (to lose their power and independence) into a Rescue/Vets Practice when it is strictly necessary in order to try and save them or because they will not survive without intervention or because they will have a terrible death when a kinder, easier death could be offered.
- The right to only be treated by someone (be that a Rescue or an independent Rehabber) who has suitable premises and a minimum level of knowledge to offer a high welfare environment and to give that wildlife casualty/orphan the greatest chance possible to survive/get better/grow into an adult (this necessitates a Rescue/Rehabber having either Vets on site or a good working relationship with a local Vet).
- The right to be treated as an individual creature and a unique case (just like we humans always expect to be treated by our hospitals and doctors) - seeing what treatment suits them as an individual, giving them every chance possible - with only their welfare in mind.
WHO/WHAT ARE WE?
We at the WCB are a collective of Vet Professionals, Wildlife Professionals and Wildlife Rescues/Rehabbers who have united together to develop some self regulation for UK Wildlife Rescues/Rehabbers.
We have launched a new UK Wildlife Rescue/Rehabber DIRECTORY/MAP that represents a list of trustworthy - PROVEN - Wildlife Rescues/Rehabbers for Vet Practices & members of the public to know they can confidently give wildlife casualties/orphans to, for knowledgeable, high welfare rehabilitative care.
[Being part of the WCB - a Badge Holder - also provides a safe, supportive & positive community that's already uniting UK Vet Professionals & Wildlife Rescues/Rehabbers around one common goal: the rights of wildlife to thrive.]
SUPPORTING WILDLIFE RESCUES & REHABBERS
Just as the crux of rehabbing seems to be finding the balance between offering high standards of environment and quality of care vs helping the highest reasonable number of casualties, so the WCB has sought to find a balance between supporting the well being of the Wildlife Rescues and Rehabbers themselves AS WELL as setting high welfare standards (that must be met and maintained) for all of the wildlife casualties in their care.
WHY IS THE 'WILDLIFE CARE BADGE' IMPORTANT?
Currently - without a minimum standard of care being set & agreed upon universally across England, Wales & Northern Ireland - the only way to try and prevent a Wildlife Rescue or Rehabber (who lacks experience or resources) from taking in casualties is to try and report them to the RSPCA for investigation. This is rarely effective (purely due to limited resources) & it punishes those who care but who require training/resources, instead of empowering them.
HOW WILL IT WORK? HOW WILL THIS GET UK RESCUES/REHABBERS TO SET NATIONWIDE MINIMUM STANDARDS?
If enough Rescues/Rehabbers sign up for the WCB, it could start to become strange NOT to have it: so much so that SOCIAL/PEER PRESSURE could encourage Rescues/Rehabbers to sign up to it, thereby setting minimum (and in some cases, much higher) standards of wildlife care nationwide.
WHO ARE THE 'SELF-REGULATORS' BEHIND THE WCB?
Whilst we (the WCB developers) have created a structure in which to ask Rescues/Rehabbers to prove a level of knowledge and to ensure their premises are set up appropriately, the badges are effectively regulated by the current legislation. IF YOU ARE A RESCUE/REHABBER... Your Vets check your premises to make sure you're meeting welfare standards in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and that you're working within the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
(With regard to arranging with your Vet to do this check: we can help you arrange it. We have put together some information for them - a check list and advice on what to look for on the premises and what to advise, if any changes need to be made, put together by Wildlife Specialist Vet Professionals. This must be given to them before the visit).
The standards/practices that all Badge Holders are expected to be aware of (and operate under) are based on the knowledge that all Wildlife Rehabbers should have (all of the educational resources and recommended regulations that have already been created by experts). Some examples are...
BSAVA Manual of Wildlife Casualties (2nd Edition) / Defra Notifiable disease disinfectants list / Good Practice Guidelines for Wildlife Rehabilitation Centres / British Veterinary Zoological Society 2016 (open access) / Garden Wildlife Health Disease Fact Sheets / Introduction to Wildlife Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release Mullineaux E (Ed.) (2022) Secret World Wildlife Rescue / Practical Wildlife Care, Second Edition Les Stocker / Safe4 data (dilutions and contact times) / The Wildlife Trust (click on the links to read the legislation) UK Wildlife Law | The Wildlife Trusts / Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (legislation.gov.uk)
The Knowledge Assessment is written by a Wildlife Vet and questions are based only on fact and research and not opinions so there is either a right or wrong answer. The record keeping is effectively 'do you have this information (?)' so the answer to that is either yes or no. There will be a team of volunteers who go through the information but it's not marked on someone's interpretations, it's a very set 'yes or no' type thing.
HOW HAS IT BEEN DEVELOPED?
The WCB was developed BY Wildlife Professionals FOR Wildlife Professionals.
The WCB was developed & launched by a united team of Wildlife Experienced Vets, Small 'Home Premises' Rehabbers, larger Wildlife Rescue Centres, General Practice Vets and other Wildlife Professionals. Efforts were made across various social media platforms to invite every Wildlife Rescue/Rehabber in the UK to be involved in the development. A lot of Wildlife Rehabbers/Vet Professionals attended, with a CORE TEAM attending most of the meetings & developing the WCB Badges.
It was developed over a year of approximately 50hrs of Zoom meetings on every topic and (after many fine tuning revisions) it was launched in February 2022. We have just celebrated our 1st year anniversary.
WHAT DOES THE WCB REQUIRE FROM WILDLIFE RESCUES/REHABBERS, TO PROVE THEMSELVES AS BRILLIANT RESCUERS?
ONE... We ask Wildlife Rescues/Rehabbers to prove a minimum level of knowledge about the species they rehab. TWO... We ask them to prove that they have a suitable premises in which to rehab the wildlife casualties/orphans that they take in. THREE... We ask them to prove (and it takes a few minutes a month to do so) that they maintain high standards throughout their working week through a minimum level of record keeping and by proving a regular working relationship with a Vet.
That's it. It doesn't matter how a Rehabber has come by their knowledge (how they have been trained) or how they have known how to set up their premises to a high standard (to be able to offer a space of high welfare well being, to the casualties that are housed and treated within the space) it just matters that they know what they are doing and are established appropriately, as well as being willing to continue being transparent and honest in their practices.
Check out the FULL DETAILS on how this all practically works.
WHY DID WE SETTLE ON THIS FINAL VERSION OF THE WCB?
After much discussion, debate and back and forth of ideas and the exact language to use, we (those who have put in the most hours to develop the WCB) have published this first official version of the WCB. It's as perfect a starting point as we can hope for.
WHY IS SOME OF OUR WCB 'FOCUS' ON SUPPORTING VET PRACTICES & WILDLIFE REHABBERS TO BEST SERVE WILDLIFE, TOGETHER?
We started off the WCB just by wanting to create a Map/Directory that featured Wildlife Rescues with proven high welfare standards. That was our main goal and focus at the start. (We also wanted to ensure that the WCB community of badge holders was a safe and comfortable space for Wildlife Rehabbers and Vet Professionals to network and support one another to serve our UK wildlife).
However... It’s one thing to expect high standards of care from every Wildlife Rehabber (however small) who takes in wildlife but it’s not fair to demand high standards if they aren’t getting the support they need from local Vet Practices. Smaller Rescues (like the larger ones) need Vet support in order to get access to equipment and tests and medications, to efficiently diagnose and treat the wildlife that come into their care.
Equally, it can be very hard on any Vet Practice if local Rescues are too demanding (always with the best of intentions, to help wildlife).
As well as creating our WCB Map/Directory, it became clear that, to help some smaller Rescues establish higher standards (what really should be the minimum standards of care) to achieve the WCB Badge, we needed to offer support to both Vet Practices and Rescues to confidently work together to serve our UK wildlife.
A solid strong foundation of wildlife care in Vet Practices and Wildlife Rescues - across the UK - is essential to give our UK wildlife their best second chance, when they need it.
Of the approximately 4000 Vet Practices (across the UK) they can see between them, on average, 120,000 wildlife casualties/orphans a month, during the Spring/Summer months. Supporting these Vet Practices to be set up logistically, knowledgably and financially to confidently treat and process and then pass on these wild lives (to high welfare local Rescues) will save many 100,000s of lives and ensure that Vet Practices (in the words of Vet Professionals themselves) are especially rewarding places to work in.
It is also essential that strong, trusting relationships between Vet Practices and local smaller Rescues exist, across the UK: enabling everyone to treat wildlife within the law and also ensuring that each wild creature gets the diagnostic checks that they need and the right operations and medications to give them a second chance at life.