Australian Veterinary Association: Code of Professional Conduct: Guiding Principals
1: Always consider the health, welfare and respectful treatment of the animal
a. Veterinarians should not condone animal suffering or be a party to it
Australian veterinarians routinely exclude an entire order of injured and suffering mammals from their care – the order Chiroptera / Bats.
By failing to be Lyssavirus vaccinated and refusing to treat injured bats including flying foxes veterinary practitioners are being a direct cause of animal suffering. It is grossly unacceptable to exclude so many animals from medical care and treatment. They will not do what unpaid and vaccinated rescuers and carers do without hesitation – provide help and care.
Bats are in every town and city in Australia. Most are insect eating micro-bats others are nectar and fruit eating flying foxes. All are native to Australia and all have an important role to play in the environment from insect control, pollination and forest regeneration.
Some bat species are listed as Vulnerable to extinction. Together they comprise 20% of Australia’s mammal species. So, when they are badly injured you’d expect the Australian veterinary profession to be there to help. Even when the animal is completely secured by a wildlife carer most vets (95% +) refuse to treat or euthanize even badly injured and suffering flying foxes / bats. This is not acceptable practice by a profession that claims to be science and ethics based and whose public image is one of caring for animals.
The majority of bats taken to clinics for euthanasia or treatment have been injured in backyard fruit tree netting, barbed wire, electrocution, cat/dog attack or hit by car. Backyard fruit tree netting rescues in Melbourne alone range from 350 – 500 per year.
Serious injuries are broken bones, deep lacerations, debriding of skin and eye and tissue damage. Distressed rescuers are turned away to manage the problem alone.
Most vets and vet nurses choose not to be Lyssavirus vaccinated even though all bat wildlife volunteer rescuers and carers are vaccinated. Vaccination also provides protection when travelling in countries where rabies is endemic.
Some Facts: ABLV – Australian Bat Lyssavirus is a rare virus and the only dangerous disease that can be transmitted to humans directly by an infected bat by bite or scratch. No vaccinated person, or un-vaccinated person who has had post-exposure shots after being bitten by an infected bat, has developed Lyssavirus. Three persons have died from Lyssavirus in 100 years. Based on science the risk of accidental ABLV transmission or death is extremely low.
Dogs, horses and cows are listed in NCIS (National Coroners Information System) among the top animal causes of human death. Bats are not listed at all.
Cynics suggest that vets do not get vaccinated because there is little financial incentive to treat wildlife and if they aren’t vaccinated they won’t be obligated to provide a service. Volunteers undertake thousands of bat rescues across Australia each year. There is an urgent need for veterinary clinics to have Lyssavirus vaccinated staff. Or, do your job!
Media Contact: Lawrence Pope: firstname.lastname@example.org Victorian Advocates for Animals ph. 0416228696;
Expert Comment: Fly-By-Night Bat Rescue: Tamsyn: 0409530541
Facebook: Wildlife Safe Nets Campaign