Now you know all about Official Veterinarians (OVs) and how you can become one, we do not doubt that the next question you will ask is, “Why should I become one?” Well, look no further for the answer. Not only does the role offer dynamic, flexible and diverse work but there are plenty of opportunities for you to get involved with. But to help you get a better picture of the daily life, challenges and experiences you could be a part of, we talked with qualified OVs Gideon Smit and Ioana Dobre to get all the juicy details on life as an Official Vet.
Not only does the [OV] role offer dynamic, flexible and diverse work but there are plenty of opportunities for you to get involved with
Portsmouth-based Gideon Smit helps the many clients wanting to take their pets abroad with health checks and animal health certificates in his busy port town. Meanwhile, certification company Eville & Jones star Ioana Dobre is an exports expert, having taken on the role of acting head of exports post-Brexit, where she was responsible for the successful development of new processes, implementation of EU sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) requirements and delivery of certification across England, Scotland and Wales.
Why should I become an Official Vet?
Can you describe your job in a few sentences?
Gideon – I’m a general practitioner working in a 100 percent small animal practice in Portsmouth.
Ioana – I am an OV working as a certifying officer (CO) – the role: to provide vital assurances that enable British products of animal origin (POAO) to be exported throughout the world. My current title is business development manager, and every day I help exporters successfully deliver products that require SPS controls, ensuring that their international trade continues unfettered.
What is a memorable experience you have from working as an OV?
Gideon – An elderly couple presented with a very large, belligerent rescue dog that needed to travel to Ireland. It turns out his owners cannot leave him with anybody because he tends to panic and may bite. So, how were we to administer a tapeworm tablet? (Anybody who can resurrect the injectable praziquantel will be my hero!)
We explored a variety of options, and on the appointed day, we were ready. Bob was primed with our practice “chill protocol”, and the owner turned up with an ample supply of treats. That is the day we discovered the magic of Brie cheese! The worming tablets disappeared without a trace, and I was able to complete the relevant section of the animal health certificate. Hooray!
Ioana – After Brexit (January 2021), my most memorable experience as an OV was the amazing recognition I received from exporters! The gratitude they showed for the COs’ support, provided during the first “teething months” when all stakeholders were getting accustomed to the new ways of working, was phenomenal. I believe that was a stepping point in all our careers as certifiers and the moment when we became more visible and recognised because we were needed so the trade of POAO could continue with the EU.
The role of the OV is critical for animal, human, environmental and economic health, but it’s not as visible as, for example, practice vets. January 2021 was the moment we became more present and visible.
What’s your favourite part of OV work?
Gideon – Receiving a postcard or message from a client saying they and their pet made it safely to their destination! Though I give bonus points for exports to Australia and any photos of pets reunited with their owners.
[Becoming an OV] is a fulfilling but challenging career that requires years of study, compassion for animals and lots of passion for public health
Ioana – It is a fulfilling but challenging career that requires years of study, compassion for animals and lots of passion for public health. What I am most proud of in the work we do as OVs is the fact that we are playing a key role in helping to safeguard the welfare of 1.2 billion animals while ensuring our food is safe to eat.
What things have you learned while working as an OV?
Gideon – That Brie is the missing ingredient! But seriously, doing pet exports can be stressful – I have learned that being just a little “belt and braces” when it comes to OV work helps me sleep at night. The stress and panic that accompanied my very first animal health certificate has been mitigated by learning to be methodical and double-checking everything.
To be effective at doing OV work we need to create a practice “ecosystem” that nurtures the training of the whole team, maintains accurate clinical records and allows us to spend time with owners so we can go through all the options and requirements.
Getting to grips with OV work can be daunting; however, I have received great support from my colleagues working in APHA and Improve OV. The OV community are always happy to answer questions on the Export Forum.
OV work is a public service. We help pets travel to their destinations with the correct documentation, but underpinning that is our role to protect national and global animal and plant health – to keep people and animals safe. That is a very worthwhile cause.
OV work is a public service […] our role [is] to protect national and global animal and plant health – to keep people and animals safe. That is a very worthwhile cause
Ioana – I’ve learned that, as OVs, we never stop learning. I am constantly challenged, especially as a CO, with the rules and regulations for the EU changing so often. The best “teachers” during these recent years have been the CO colleagues I’ve worked with, not just within my company but from other certification practices. Together we have overcome the unknowns and hurdles of Brexit and supported each other in the learning process. It’s been #teamwork at its best!
Do you have any final thoughts about working as an OV?
Gideon – I would highly recommend OVs to attend the OV Conference! It helped me broaden my perspective on what other OVs and government vets are doing and to learn about progress in tackling existing and emerging diseases. The sessions generally allow ample opportunity to ask questions and have them answered by experts in their field.
Ioana – More awareness needs to be raised about the incredible work our OV heroes do! We need to let the world know about all the challenges we face and how we all must work together to overcome them.