THE WCB IS A PERFECT 'MINIMUM STANDARD' START TO SELF REGULATION
WHO ARE THE EXPERTS BEHIND THE WCB?
The WCB launched in Feb. 2022 & was developed over a YEAR of seemingly endless Zoom meetings, by Wildlife Rescues & Rehabbers (from tiny one man/woman set ups to large centres) as well as Vets (both wildlife specific & general practice) & Vet Nurses.
It was developed BY Wildlife Professionals FOR Wildlife Professionals.
Check out the CORE DEVELOPMENT TEAM who attended most of the WCB Development meetings.
AS A RESULT, EVERYTHING ASKED FOR AS MINIMUM PROOF OF WELFARE STANDARDS (FOR RESCUES/REHABBERS TO ACHIEVE THE WCB) HAS BEEN DECIDED BY WILDLIFE PROFESSIONALS THEMSELVES (FROM EVERY BACKGROUND & SET UP) TO BE EASILY ACHIEVABLE.
WHAT EXPERT WILDLIFE CARE STANDARDS HAVE THE BADGES BEEN BASED ON?
The WCB has been drafted - and is based on - already recognised standards from the RSPCA, BWRC, BVZS and the BSAVA that Wildlife Rehabbers (even lone Rehabbers, working out of their homes) should ALL be already meeting as a minimum standard of care.
THERE ARE TWO WCB BADGES (THE REHAB, RELEASE & TRANSIT BADGE & THE LONG TERM CARE BADGE).
YOU CAN FIND OUT ABOUT THEM BY CLICKING THE BUTTON BELOW.
HOW DOES A WILDLIFE RESCUE/REHABBER GET THE RR&T BADGE?
[THE LTC BADGE IS STILL AT THE VERY LAST STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT (AND YET TO BE LAUNCHED)]
Wildlife Rescues/Rehabbers are asked for a number of things, to get the badge.
They are asked to not only prove the state of their main central base but the WCB also asks (if they outsource any wildlife casualties off the base) for them to prove the state of the premises of their off site Rehabbers/Fosterers/Carers (and for them to pass a knowledge assessment themselves, if they are fairly independent and unsupervised).
The WCB is not asking for proof of knowledge/standards because there are doubts that WCB applicants are professional, knowledgeable, working with a great Vet and well set up and clean and totally brilliant: the WCB is asking for proof because somewhere (lots of somewheres) there are lots of Rescues/Rehabbers that aren’t.
This is about taking everything personal out of wildlife rescue and shining the spotlight 100% on the rights and well being of wildlife casualties and that can ONLY happen with full transparency and accountability, across the board.
The hope is then that members of the public can be made aware of the WCB accreditation and start to use our MAP in order to make sure that they only take wildlife casualties to high welfare spaces and to knowledgeable, experienced people. (Wildlife casualties can therefore, we hope, be prevented from being taken to well intentioned but ill informed and unsuitably established Rehabbers - often untrained and inexperienced, most of the time not really working with a Vet and often purchasing illegal drugs online - who can do a lot more harm than good to the wildlife casualties in their care).
[If you are a Wildlife Rescue/Rehabber reading this: I expect that you're probably amazing. What the WCB is asking for is that you set an example for everyone else - who perhaps isn’t as great, currently - that you have been happy to prove your level of care (for the sake of wildlife welfare, nationwide) so there’s no reason for others not to do the same.]
APPLY FOR THE RR&T BADGE
A Wildlife Rescue/Rehabber applies for the RR&T Badge by filling in this FORM. This makes sure that you're in the WCB database, so that we can help you to get the RR&T Badge as efficiently and easily as possible. The next step is signing up for your KA (with any 'unsupervised' staff/volunteers who might need to do it too, see below)...
RR&T Badge Holders prove your knowledge & experience by sitting either a 1hr or 90mins (depending on how many species they rehab) online quiz.
The Wildlife Care Badge (WCB) Knowledge Assessments cover some vital points that all rehabilitators should know to ensure that you are acting both within the law and with the animals’ best interests in mind.
Any 'UNSUPERVISED STAFF/VOLUNTEERS' need to take the KA (so that it can be proven that there is the same high level of knowledge across the whole Rescue) and you can see what 'Supervised/Unsupervised' means HERE.
The KAs can be held on Zoom or via another video service, like Facebook Video Call. They can be done by signing up for one of the GROUP EXAMS or by using the same FORM to request either your own one-to-one KA or to ask to book in a time that is just for your Rescue staff/volunteers to do your own separate KA, away from other Rescues/Rehabbers.
[REHABBERS GET 3 GOES AT THE KA, THEN THEY MUST WAIT 3 MONTHS TO TAKE IT A 4TH TIME, ANOTHER 3 MONTHS TO TAKE IT A 5TH TIME AND THEN, SHOULD THEY STILL BE STRUGGLING, THEY WOULD BE ASKED TO WAIT 6 MONTHS - AND GIVEN RECOMMENDATIONS FOR COURSES, TRAINING & RESEARCH TO HELP THEM TO IMPROVE THEIR KNOWLEDGE BASE - UNTIL THEY APPLY TO TAKE IT AGAIN.
AS THE WCB IS ABOUT SUPPORTING EVERYONE UP TO THE HIGHEST STANDARD, IF A REHABBER IS AT ALL WORRIED ABOUT PASSING THE KA, THEY CAN ASK TO BE MENTORED BY ONE OF OUR CURRENT WCB HOLDERS, TO HELP THEM GAIN THE CONFIDENCE & KNOWLEDGE THAT THEY NEED TO PASS THE KNOWLEDGE ASSESSMENT.]
You invite your Vet to come and visit/check your premises. (If you are a new Rescue/Rehabber and are looking to build a relationship with a new Vet, to get started, please feel free to CONTACT the WCB to ask for the 'Vet Support Package', offering advice on reaching out and building a relationship with your local Vet Practice). A Vet either visits the Rescue/Rehabber premises in person or does a video call where they are walked around the premises.
The Vets will have been given in advance - by you, from us, that will be sent to you when you pass your KA - a Vet Checklist Report (created by one of the top Wildlife Vets in the country) and a pdf list (also created by Wildlife Vet Professionals) of so called 'Red Flags' to look out for. Every Vet will therefore have the tools/info that they need to know what to look for in a premises and what important questions to ask and then they email their report directly to the WCB team.
If a Wildlife Rescue is set up as a 'hub' (outsourcing wildlife casualties to Rehabbers/Fosterers/Carers off site, as well as having a central base) then as well as the Vet visiting your main base (that might just be your home) you will also need to get dated photos (proving the date they were taken) from your Rehabbers/Fosterers/Carers of their premises - in as much detail as possible - to be sent to you in advance, for you to either... 1. Show your Vet when they visit you in person or 2. Email to your Vet for them to see, either immediately before or after their Vet Video Visit.
Every new RR&T Badge Holder will start off on probation for the first two months.
During this time - as each new Badge Holder is announced - if another Rescue, a Vet or a member of the public has severe concerns about the new Badge Holder, they are welcome to use the ‘FEEDBACK FORM.’
The reasons behind the new 'feedback form' are that it is not impossible for a Wildlife Rescue/Rehabber (who ideally needs to improve their practices, however well intentioned they are) to still be aware of the theory enough to pass the KA or to know what should be expected of them (as a premises) to initially pass a Vet Visit.
The problems occur once a Wildlife Rescue/Rehabber has achieved the RR&T Badge and yet continues to rehab wildlife through practices that sadly inflict more harm than healing onto the wildlife casualties that come into their care.
The 'FEEDBACK FORM' is for animal welfare concerns only and will work as follows...
A Rescue, a Vet or a member of the public can submit concerns (about the new Badge Holder) and they will then be contacted to ask to submit evidence to support any concerns about the new Badge Holder's practices. (For example, screenshots of messages admitting to bad practice, videos of wildlife casualties where the Rehabber has clearly misdiagnosed an injury or illness).
To prevent the 'feedback form' ever inviting malicious intent (as sadly can currently occur quite commonly in the wildlife rescue industry) there will be safeguards to protect the person submitting feedback as well as the Badge Holderr being referenced, whilst we - the WCB Committee - assess the evidence provided to decide if the submitted concerns are valid...
TO PROTECT THE PERSON WHO HAS SUBMITTED CONCERNS THROUGH THE FORM
Their identity will be known to one of the co-founders of the WCB, Alana, but it will not be made available to the Badge Holder being referenced or the WCB Committee who will assess the evidence provided.
TO PROTECT THE BADGE HOLDER ABOUT WHOM FEEDBACK IS BEING SUBMITTED
- Firstly, concerns that are not supported with evidence will not be considered.
- Secondly, all evidence must be able to be assessed objectively and be without doubt (for example, if the evidence being provided of negligence within a premises could just be a few photos taken at times of day when the enclosures are due for cleaning, further irrefutable evidence may be required).
- Thirdly, on occasion, if the evidence is not objective enough (and could be open to being framed negatively, without actually being negative after all) we - the WCB Committee - will ask the Badge Holder in question to give their side of what might have occurred (without the person who submitted the feedback having their anonymity undermined).
WHAT HAPPENS IF FEEDBACK IS PROVED TO BE GENUINE
- If the evidence provided proves that acts of a criminal nature have taken place (eg. low welfare standards amounting to animal cruelty or negligence are common place) then the WCB Committee will either pass the information onto the RSPCA, asking the person submitting the feedback to also do the same (to be investigated) or we would recommend that the person who has submitted the feedback takes the matter up with other official organisations, like the Charity Commission.
- If the evidence proves perhaps just a lack of knowledge on a certain matter or a need for more hands on experience (but the Badge Holder has every intention of using this opportunity to rectify the situation and raise their standards) the WCB Committee will do all that we can to support the Badge Holder to improve their practices and probably place greater accountability requests in place for a short while to ensure that wildlife are getting the care they need, while the Badge Holder improves.
- Every bit of feedback submitted will be examined and decided upon - by the WCB Committee - on a case by case basis, always with the intention of standing up for the rights of wildlife to proper care as well as looking to create a strong, open and supportive community, to help Rehabbers to feel looked after, to do their best work.
As this is a new 'feedback' initiative (to ensure that the WCB really does stand for high welfare practices) we will of course be monitoring it and adapting it as and when needed and we will always be looking to make sure that we are striking the right and fair balance between standing up for wildlife and supporting UK Wildlife Rescues/Rehabbers.]
When a Rescue/Rehabber gets the RR&T Badge, they immediately get a drop box folder set up in their name, with a link sent to them. This is where they can easily - in their own time - upload the documents that we at the WCB need...
This requirement has 2 goals and should take around 5 minutes every 2 months to achieve: 1. To ensure the very best care of our UK wildife casualties. 2. To build badly needed transparency and trust between our UK Wildlife Rescuers & Rehabbers.
[Q. Why is it being asked for and why is it so essential? A. It is essential because almost everyone can START well but then fail to MAINTAIN high welfare practices over time. Almost anyone can make one big effort to have a clean, orderly premises for their Vet visit and they can start off as a Badge Holder who takes wildlife casualties to their Vets whenever needed too. They can even have the best of intentions with regards to keeping records, in the excitement of applying for and receiving the WCB. The hard part is maintaining high standards, especially when it’s very busy (this is when a Rescue/Rehabber can start to fall behind on keeping records or can even start to avoid the cost of taking casualties to their Vets, both for assessment and to be given the right, legal medication, because the fundraising for Vets bills feels too difficult). And when Rescues/Rehabbers start to neglect these practices (that are essential in offering high welfare care) of course they are aware that they are letting the animals down and so they claim that they are a Rescue/Rehabber who of course keeps excellent records (and perhaps they even claim to be a Rescue/Rehabber who works side by side with their Vets in all matters) but at the end of the day, as no one is asking for proof of high, continual conditions, it's the wildlife casualties who suffer.]
The 2 month accountability was debated a lot across hours of meetings - by Vets, Rescues & Rehabbers - as the WCB was developed - and only takes 5mins. It will be documents that you already have, that you just need to attach and send us copies of (blacking out any GDPR sensitive information).
RR&T Badge Holders will drop into a drop box folder (every 2 months) the following...
A. Admission records for the last 2 months (nothing complicated, just what’s come in and why AND we ask you to blank out/remove any GDPR sensitive material, like names, addresses, donations etc). This is also a unique opportunity for research - if all Rescues/Rehabbers agree for their admission records to be collated - to create a hub of knowledge across the UK....
B. Proof of working with a Vets over the last 2 months. Just attach a picture of either.... Vet bill / Consult notes / Signed letter from Vets etc... [Now, if you are are Hedgehog Rescue, for instance, and you don't need to see your Vet over the quiet months, all we need is a quick sentence from your Vet - that all Vets so far seem very happy to provide, as there is a lot of Vet support, for the WCB - letting us know that they are still happy and confident in your working relationship.]
C. Notes for 1 of your cases - Admission info, plan of action for that animal and outcome. (Just to show that info is being kept about the casualties).
(THERE IS ALSO A 'RESCUE/REHABBER SUPPORT & ANIMAL WELFARE COMMITTEE')
The committee is a supportive AND welfare focused committee of anonymous, independent Wildlife Professionals: any concerns about a Badge Holder's rehabilitation practices are placed before them and discussed in monthly meetings by those Wildlife Professionals.
The WCB is about - first and foremost - supporting Badge Holders to have/achieve & maintain high welfare standards and to rehabilitate wildlife casualties from a minimum pre-agreed standard level of knowledge and experience. It is also about helping Badge Holders to keep getting better and better (therefore providing better care to wildlife casualties) while feeling looked after and supported, within the community.
YOU CAN SEE - HERE - HOW THE COMMITTEE OPERATES IN PRACTICE.
ANNUAL BADGE RENEWAL
Renewing the RR&T Badge each year requires the same procedures as getting the RR&T Badge for the first time: yourself & your staff/volunteers take a similar KA and have the same Vet checks and commit to the same ongoing accountability. The only extra requirement is proof of an extra 15 hours of CPD learning the year before (mirroring the professional requirements of Vet Professionals having to provide proof of keeping on top of current research and procedures). These can be online/in person courses, reading research papers or attending online/in person conferences.