Physiotherapy Board of Australia - Update on animal physiotherapy from the Physiotherapy Board of Australia
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Update on animal physiotherapy from the Physiotherapy Board of Australia

01 Sep 2017

As a registered physiotherapist you renew your registration with the Physiotherapy Board of Australia (the Board) every year.

One of the functions the Board is to foster an innovative and flexible physiotherapy workforce, while maintaining and improving the high standards of practice enjoyed in Australia.

Another important role for the Board and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) is ensuring that only those people who are suitably qualified and competent are registered and therefore legally able to use the titles of ‘physiotherapist’ or ‘physical therapist’. Only those who continue to meet ongoing registration requirements, including a prescribed amount of recent practice, can maintain registration.

When it comes to registered physiotherapists who practice on animals and people, practice on animals is not within the scope of the Board’s regulatory role in protecting the public. The National Law1 which determines the role and powers of the Board and AHPRA does not extend to practice on animals, only on members of the public or people.

If your practice is 100% animal-based, you cannot maintain general registration unless you complete150 hours of practice in the previous registration year, or 450 hours over the previous three years in practice involving humans. The definition of practice set by the Board is defined as:

‘Practice’ can be any role, whether paid or not, in which you use your skills and knowledge as a physiotherapist. Practice is not restricted to the provision of direct clinical care. It can include working in a direct non-clinical relationship with patients, working in management, administration, education research, advisory, regulatory or policy development roles, and any other roles that impact on the safe, effective delivery of physiotherapy services to the public. 

If you wish to remain registered and practise on animals, whether as part of the normal course of your practice, on weekends, or without payment, you must:

  • Meet your professional obligations as a registered physiotherapist – including Continuing Professional Development (CPD), recent practice, and adhere to the Code of conduct. 
  • Declare on renewal of registration annually that you meet the recent practice minimum requirements of 150 hours over the previous registration year, or 450 hours over the previous three years and the minimum CPD requirements of 20 hours over the past year, which relates to physiotherapy for humans. Know and adhere to laws in any state or territory in which you practise that restrict or prohibit the provision of health services to animals. A breach of any law may risk an investigation into your conduct and/or be considered as an issue that goes to your fitness for registration.
  • Even if you have formal qualifications relating to the treatment of animals, your obligations as a registered physiotherapist relate to humans, and not animals. 
  • Ensure that your professional indemnity insurer knows and that you are covered.
  • Make sure that you do not give the impression that you are a registered veterinarian.

If you do choose to become unregistered then you are not able to use the protected title of ‘physiotherapist’ or ‘physical therapist’ in any way that it could appear you are registered with the Physiotherapy Board of Australia as a registered physiotherapist or you risk breaching the law.

The title ‘animal physiotherapist’ may lead members of the public to assume that the Board also has jurisdiction over the treatment of animals. That is not the case.

It’s important to note that animal owners are not able to notify the Board about issues they may have about the treatment of an animal, as they would if the treatment had been provided to a human.

There are many other state and territory laws, including those relating the provision of services to animals that you must adhere to, as well.

For more information on your obligations and registration requirements go to the registration standards page or contact the APA.

1Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law).

Page reviewed 1/09/2017