General Standard of care

As the owner of an animal, you are entitled to a minimum standard of care with regard to professional services provided by your veterinarian for your animal.   It is impossible to formulate a fixed set of universal minimum standards for Standard of Care for all situations as the expected standard of care in a particular case is determined by numerous factors.  These include economics, experience, location and facilities.  The minimum standard of care can vary widely as a consequence.  The expected standard of care in a new graduate veterinarian with basic facilities in a demographically poor rural region is much lower than that expected of an experienced specialist veterinarian with 'cutting edge' equipment and the best facilities in a wealthy urban neighborhood.   The former can be expected to provide no more than very basic medical care, while the latter can be expected to provide first-world human-standard care.  

It requires substantial veterinary medical and medical legal skill and knowledge to determine whether the care provided by a particular veterinarian in a particular situation met the expected minimum standards of care.   The Veterinary Defence Association specialises in the subject of standards of care, both in fulfilling its function of educating and mentoring its member veterinarians in striving to raise their standards of care, as well as in protecting the public that uses the services of VDA members from the consequences of substandard medical care by its members.   

If your veterinarian is a VDA member, then the chances are that they practice to a higher standard of care than other non-VDA members.  In this respect, your veterinarian's VDA membership provides you with the assurance that your animal is in better hands. Your veterinarian's VDA membership provides you with the further assurance that, if your veterinarian does not meet the expected minimum standards of care in the treatment of your animal, you will be financially compensated for any loss that you have suffered.  

Here is the procedure:

  1. Establish if your veterinarian is a VDA member. You can obtain this information from the VDA at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or from your veterinarian.

  2. If your veterinarian is a VDA member, proceed to step 3.  If not, the VDA will unfortunately not be able to assist you.  Your only recourse then is your State Veterinary Board or the civil courts.  Your lawyer will be able to assist you.

  3. Submit the details of your complaint in writing to your veterinarian, or directly to the VDA by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by fax to 647 4368074.

  4. Upon receipt of your complaint, the VDA will correspond directly with you, inviting you formally into the VDA's Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) process, and setting out the tests and standards that apply.  

  5. The VDA will then analyze the facts and merits of the case after receiving and reviewing all the relevant information, obtained from you, your veterinarian and any other veterinarians that were involved in this case.

  6. In due course, you will receive a substantive explanation, setting out the medicine and the law.  If it is decided that your veterinarian met the expected minimum standards of care under the circumstances, you will be provided with the reasons for this decision.  If it is decided that your veterinarian did not meet required minimum standards, you will be compensated for your losses.  Note that the VDA is the only forum in which you will receive an explanation for the medical outcome of your animal.  You will not receive such an explanation in any other forum, including the State Veterinary Board or the Courts.  

  7. There is no prejudice to you: If you are not satisfied at the end of the ADR process, you are still free to pursue your complaint in other forums.

The benefits of participating in the VDA's ADR process are:

  1. The process is free.

  2. You do not prejudice your rights by participating in the ADR process.  In fact, you will have a much better idea of the medicine and law that pertains to your case, and therefore be in a more informed position, should you wish to take the matter further.

  3. You provide your veterinarian with a fair and proper opportunity to present his or her side of the matter.

  4. If you are looking for a fair and independent explanation of 'what went wrong' or why a particular outcome occurred, this is your best opportunity to get it.

  5. The process allows emotions and frustrations to be set aside in preference for a fair and objective approach, which greatly improves the chances of a fair and satisfactory resolution for you.