Registered Charity No. 1157841

British Wildlife Rehabilitation Council

Treatment Phase


Legal Aspects


1. Throughout treatment the casualty must not be subjected to "unnecessary suffering". The Animal Welfare Act 2006 protects all captive animals from unnecessary suffering and a wildlife casualty once confined in captivity is protected under the provisions of this Act.


2. The Animal Welfare Act also places a responsibility on those keeping animals (including wildlife undergoing treatment) to ensure the animals’ needs are met. These needs are defined under Section 9 of the Act as:


i. need for a suitable environment;

ii. need for a suitable diet;

iii. need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns;

iv. need to be housed with, or apart from, other animals;

v. need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.


3. Treatment of animals is regulated by the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. The basic principle of the Act is to ensure that diagnosis and

treatment of all animals is performed only by qualified veterinary surgeons or by other trained staff under their supervision.


There are certain exclusions, notably the performance of minor non-invasive procedures by an owner on their animals. In this regard wild animals once in captivity are temporarily in the care and ownership of the handler.


However, apart from emergency first aid and stabilisation any further treatment should, where practical, be performed after consultation with

and under the supervision of a veterinary surgeon. Euthanasia may also be performed to prevent further suffering. There are a variety of

physical techniques that do not require the services of vet and rehabilitators should be aware of these and should obtain training should they wish to use them.


3. The Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) prohibits the keeping of birds in cages which will not allow them to spread their wings in all

directions. This does not apply if the bird is being confined under veterinary supervision or being transported.


Treatment Phase


1. At all stages of treatment the welfare of the casualty must be the primary concern.


2. Each unit should have a close working relationship with a local veterinary practice,

ideally one experienced in the treatment of wildlife casualties.


3. Facilities and trained personnel should be available in every unit to administer first aid and to house a casualty in clean, secure,

secluded and, if required, heated accommodation. A basic kit of disinfected instruments, wound dressings and antiseptics should

be available and maintained with the advice and assistance of the attending veterinary practice.


(A suggested first aid medical kit is including in Appendix III.)


4. Consideration must be given to the risks of introducing infectious organisms and their control within the unit.

Control methods could include quarantine procedures, barrier nursing, not mixing species and not allowing domestic

animals near wild animal casualties.


5. Careful thought must be given to the assessment of each case, its welfare whilst in captivity, its potential for release and, if appropriate,

its long term care, taking into account the natural behaviour of that particular species. An early assessment of the condition of a casualty

and the nature and extent of its injuries or disease is essential to establish a programme of treatment. Such assessment requires,

in most cases, the assistance of a veterinary surgeon.


6. If at any stage euthanasia is considered to be the most humane approach this should be performed either by the attending veterinary

practice or by trained personnel using techniques discussed and demonstrated by a veterinary surgeon.


7. A distinction in the approach to treatment may be made between 1) an injured or orphaned casualty and 2) a sick casualty.

An injured or orphaned casualty may have suffered a genuine accident, and despite their injuries or abandonment remain essentially healthy. However, the health of a casualty suffering from an infectious disease or organ failure may be permanently damaged.

It may remain a carrier of an infectious agent and although appear healthy still pose a threat to handlers, other animals within the

unit and the wild population once released. Each animal for release should be assessed by an experienced rehabilitator or your veterinarian.


8. The unit's facilities and the staff's experience may be unsuitable for a particular species or type of treatment. In these circumstances

they should not take on long-term rehabilitation but may administer first aid. Close links with other units able to provide these facilities and

early referral of suitable cases will ensure the welfare of a casualty is not compromised.


9. Consideration must be given to protect personnel at a unit and members of the public from injury whilst handling casualties and from the

risk from infectious agents (zoonotic infection). Working practices and training should be designed to minimize such risks. Any rehabilitator working with bats must be vaccinated against rabies (contact the BCT (Bat Conservation Trust) and others for details).


10. Facilities for treatment, food preparation and washing of bedding must be separate from those used by personnel and visitors.


11. Accommodation for wildlife casualties should provide the following:-


i. A safe, quiet place away from people so that the only contact is during cleaning, feeding and treatment, or other essential activities.


ii. No wild animal (including birds) should not be kept near to or in close proximity to domestic animals. The mixing of wild species in captivity should take particular notice of the animals' behaviours in the wild including territoriality, sex, feeding habits and the time of year.


iii. Security from escape.


iv. Seclusion from threatening sights, sounds and smells, possibly with special facilities for heavily pregnant or suckling mammals.

Predatory animals (including birds) should be kept away from prey species. Remember, many animals have better senses of smell and

hearing than humans so keeping animals out of sight of each other may not be enough to prevent them sensing each other.


v. Appropriate housing design to prevent the casualty damaging itself.


vi. Provision for the capture and handling of the casualty without causing it undue stress or injury or prejudicing the safety of the handler.


vii. Ability to provide food and water in containers that the casualty can reach and use. They should be placed where they will not become

soiled or spilled by the animal without excessive soiling and easily changed with minimum disturbance to the casualty.


viii. The provision of heat, where necessary, in a safe and controllable manner while providing the animal the ability to move away from

the heat source as required.


ix. Bedding and other cage enrichment should suitable for the species concerned and be provided in such a manner so that it does

not contaminate the food or water or be contaminated by it.


x. Provision to clean the floor and change any bedding with minimum disturbance to the casualty and to allow thorough physical cleaning

and disinfection between patients.


xi. Disposal of waste, including carcasses, from the unit must be performed responsibly and conform to Environmental Health regulations. Procedures should be discussed with the attending veterinary practice and the Environmental Health Department of the local council.


xii. Environmental enrichment should be considered where possible. The welfare of any casualty can be improved by providing it with

additional stimuli, especially if it mirrors situations in the wild. For example, wild animals do not feed from bowls, so providing animals the opportunity to forage, as opposed to simply eating, will help keep the animal mentally and physically active.