Fergus Allerton, from Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service in Solihull, who is antimicrobial resistance subject matter expert at leading veterinary group Linnaeus

UK pet owners are urged to support an antibiotic amnesty to help protect effectiveness and reduce environmental pollution

This November, pet owners are being encouraged to return any out-of-date or unused antibiotics they have at home that were prescribed for their much-loved companions, to their vet practice as part of an antibiotic amnesty.

This is a ‘first-of-its-kind’ campaign led by a collaboration of UK veterinary organisations, practices and charities to educate owners about antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and raise awareness of the importance of the safe use and responsible disposal of these important medicines.

The antibiotic amnesty overlaps with World Antibiotic Awareness Week (18-24 November 2022).

Pet owners are also being encouraged to fill in a survey to help vets gain may not use all their pet’s prescribed antibiotic and how they currently dispose of them, which can be found here: https://rumacae.org.uk/antibioticamnesty/

What is the issue?

Antibiotics are essential to treat many conditions in both people and animals. But they must be used carefully, to ensure they remain effective for when patients, human or animal, really need them.

If not used responsibly, antibiotics can lead to dangerous side-effects, delay an accurate diagnosis, and contribute to antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Inappropriate disposal of unused antibiotics also damages the environment, impacting water quality and wildlife.

Fergus Allerton, from Linnaeus-owned Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service in Solihull, is helping coordinate the amnesty. He said, “We are delighted to be launching the first ever veterinary antibiotic amnesty this November and are encouraging as many pet owners as possible to take part by returning their unused and out-of-date antibiotics to their local vet practice.

“The veterinary profession is committed to not only the responsible use of antibiotics to help treat pets when appropriate, but also to the safe disposal of these important medicines.

“Antimicrobial resistance is a world-wide health threat. Antimicrobial resistance occurs when bacteria develop resistance to the effects of antibiotic treatments, making treatment for people and animals less effective.

“Antibiotics can offer life-saving treatment for serious conditions in humans, animals and pets, which is why in all situations, antibiotics need to be used and disposed of carefully.”

The amnesty aims to help raise awareness of a number of important elements around the safe use and disposal of antibiotics through a range of educational materials including leaflets, posters and animations, which vet practices will be displaying throughout November.

Fergus adds, “It is important that owners don’t use leftover antibiotics for their pets, as this could risk side effects, delay an accurate diagnosis, and contribute to antimicrobial resistance. It is also vital that antibiotics are disposed of safely.

“Inappropriate disposal of unused antibiotics could contribute to antimicrobial resistance and pollute the environment and have a negative impact on water quality and wildlife.”

The veterinary antibiotic amnesty is being delivered in collaboration with NHS Midlands.

Fergus explains, “The veterinary sector is collaborating with human health colleagues on this amnesty, and in doing so, we are adopting a One Health approach to support the welfare of people, pets and the planet. In doing so, we can jointly help to reduce the risk of AMR and preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics long into the future.”

Last year, the NHS in the Midlands launched a regional antibiotic amnesty, with participating pharmacies encouraged to discuss appropriate antibiotic disposal with patients and collect leftover antibiotics. This resulted in almost 8,000 amnesty-related conversations with patients and nearly 500 packs of antibiotics returned for safe disposal.

Dr Conor Jamieson, regional antimicrobial stewardship lead, Midlands Region at NHS England, commented, “We are delighted that the UK veterinary profession is also taking part in the antibiotic amnesty this year and the support we are seeing from right across the vet profession has been incredible. Delivering a coordinated response across all types of healthcare provision will make a much bigger impact on addressing AMR.

“This One Health approach provides more opportunities to educate the public and encourage positive behaviour when disposing of antibiotics.”

A collection box will be set up at every participating veterinary practice in November for owners to return their unused or out-of-date antibiotics and veterinary teams will be actively having conversations with clients to talk about the safe use and disposal of unused antibiotics.

Veterinary groups taking part in the amnesty include, Linnaeus, CVS Group, IVC Evidensia and Vets4Pets. They are joined by the BEVA, BSAVA, BVA, FIVP, NOAH, RCVS, RCVS Knowledge, RUMA CA&E, VMD and the Bella Moss Foundation.

* List of participants in full:

  • British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA)
  • British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA)
  • British Veterinary Association (BVA)
  • CVS Group
  • Federation of Independent Veterinary Practices (FIVP)
  • IVC Evidensia
  • Linnaeus
  • National Office of Animal Health (NOAH)
  • Responsible Use of Medicines Alliance – Companion Animal & Equine (RUMA CA&E)
  • Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS)
  • RCVS Knowledge
  • The Bella Moss Foundation
  • Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD)
  • Vets4Pets


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