This is a brilliant question that is asked a lot about the WCB and we thought that the best way to answer it was to compare the WCB with what we know of the new Scottish licensing requirements, for Wildlife Rehabbers…
Our comparison is broken down into 3 parts, that the WCB & Scottish licensing have in common: 1. Proof of competency/knowledge/training. 2. Proof of a suitable premises in which to rehab wildlife. 3. ‘Enforceability / Ensuring that standards are being maintained.’
FIRST, SCOTTISH LICENSING…
1. As part of their ‘proof of competencyʼ they have a Council ‘Animal Departmentʼ Inspector visit a Wildlife Rescue and go through all policies and proof of standards & training etc.
2. They then have a Vet visit the premises.
3. If someone reports a licensed Rescue for bad practices, the Council Inspector can turn up and ask to see proof of records and proof of practices etc, to determine whether the Rescue can keep their license or if the report is valid and they should have their license removed.
IN COMPARISON, HERE’S WHAT WE DO AT THE WCB…
1. As part of asking for proof of competency, we hold Knowledge Assessments (that are drafted by Wildlife Specialist Vets) and any ‘unsupervised’ staff/volunteers are required to pass them, to prove a minimum level of knowledge and to also prove that any supervising staff are trained up to at least a minimum standard of competency.
2. Just like the Scottish licensing requirements, we also have a Vet visit a Rescue’s premises. When Vets visit they are provided, in advance, with a checklist to go through and specific questions to ask the Rescue in question. These questions - you can find them at the bottom of the FAQs page - focus on the suitability of the premises (being happy with the layout & enclosures) & they also bring up issues like capacity limitations, biosecurity, & where/how medications are stored and who has access to them.
3. Finally, this leads us to ‘Enforceability’…. Unlike the Councils in Scotland, if a Badge Holder is ‘reportedʼ to us, we can’t go and visit their premises and close them down SO we have an alternative structure… Our version of checking that high welfare standards & practices are being maintained (after the Badge Holder has been officially ‘given’ the WCB Badge) is our ongoing accountability requirements. Our Badge Holders are required to submit, every 2 months (which takes about 5 minutes) proof of keeping Admission Forms, Treatment/Medication Plans and proof of an ongoing relationship with a Vet Practice. This provides us with proof of ongoing high welfare practices.
Of course, we can not be on the premises, overseeing a Badge Holder’s practices ourselves & we rely on a Badge Holder’s honesty in these matters (submitting genuine records and proof of working with a Vet Practice). This is the same situation as a Council Inspector experiences, as they can only look at record keeping and invoices from Vet Practices etc and take them on face value to be accurate, at least initially, just like us.
So what happens if a Badge Holder is reported to us for bad practices?
If a Badge Holder is reported to us for bad practices and there is objective evidence provided - see HERE for our 'Feedback Form' - our WCB Committee investigates the matter, quietly, by speaking to the Rescue in question, and more.
[It is important to state, right now, that the WCB is founded on being supportive of Rescues & Rehabbers to care for wildlife, so whilst at least a minimum standard of care is essential, we won’t attack a Badge Holder who has been reported to us: we will seek to find out if they just need a lot more support, first & foremost, and we will never publicly name & shame them. You can find out more about our WCB Investigative structure HERE.]
If we were to be convinced that bad practices really were occurring within the Rescue - and that they were beyond a practical solution, on our part - then we would take away the badge.
QUESTION… But will ‘taking away their badge’ make any actual difference to them?
ANSWER… Right now, the WCB, as a self regulation scheme, is only just getting started, so if a Rescue doesn’t have the WCB Badge, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t brilliant and it won’t stop members of the public from passing wildlife to them. However, as we grow and If the WCB succeeds and becomes nationally recognised and it becomes commonplace to have the WCB , then not having the badge (or having it taken away) will be almost as effective as being closed down/ having a license taken away. Vet Practices will be wary of working with a Rescue without the WCB Badge - especially if they know that they had it previously - and members of the public will be wary of passing an animal to them. Thus, there is our version of ‘enforceability’.
QUESTION… But what about the WCB being enforceable right now?
ANSWER... A small part of our WCB work is ensuring that Vet Practices & members of the public are aware of the lack of regulation across parts of the UK, so that they can make more informed decisions on who to pass wildlife casualties/orphans to, right now.
What is so important about the WCB is that it was created from within the Wildlife Rescue Industry itself, to self regulate itself. In England, Wales & Northern Ireland, government regulation is a very long way from coming into practice. Even when government regulation does come in (and this may be years away) it will likely only reflect the standards that Wildlife Rescuers & Vet Professionals - through the WCB - have already set for themselves.
The WCB is enforceable right now in a small way in that Vet Practices especially are starting to find out about us & the standards that we are celebrating. They are also either turning up to our open meetings or emailing us directly to ask questions about what we’re doing. Subsequently, we are finding that Vet Practices are already more inclined to support Wildlife Rescues with the WCB, than those without it. It’s likely that this will continue to grow. Equally, as more members of the public start to become more informed about the lack of wildlife rehab regulation in the UK and start to demand proof of standards from a Rescue/Rehabber before they hand over a wildlife casualty/orphan (which is already occurring on a small scale and looks set to grow too) more animals will start to only be passed to Rescues/Rehabbers who can provide at least a minimum level of care.
A FINAL NOTE….
It is important to bring up the topic of ‘enforceability’ as it is a very important question to consider, concerning the WCB. We’d like to finish this blog post though by focusing on what the WCB predominantly stands for, which is the CELEBRATION of great Rescues/Rehabbers. We are here to celebrate Wildlife Rehabbers, not demonise anyone.
Right now, the WCB is the only way for Wildlife Rescues/Rehabbers to objectively prove themselves so that their work is more widely recognised & celebrated. This is especially important for Home Based Rehabbers, who can often be dismissed as less effective than larger Wildlife Centres, when that isn’t the case. The WCB is about celebrating the dedication & commitment of Rehabbers across the UK and that will never change.