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I was only trying to help…

Written By: Jane Davidson RVN

It can be very hard when a pet passes away and as a vet nurse I know we all try very hard to ensure that this is as smooth a journey as possible for you, the owner. We try to make sure you have support for all the hard decisions and difficult questions from where and when euthanasia should take place, to cremation casket choices or where and how to bury a beloved pet.

However I know that as a pet owner and vet nurse there is always going to be that moment where you are back home and see some of your pets belongings and the hurt of losing them will hit you again. I know because this has happened to me and while sometimes I like to keep their bed or favourite toy where I found it for a while I know sometimes what I have found upsets me and I want to get rid of it, now, straightaway and I don’t really care how. With my pets medicines I might want to give them away to help others as then my pets life hasn’t been just for my benefit.

I understand these feelings and know that in most cases pet owners are only trying to help but after seeing an increase in people sharing mis-information on sharing medicines I thought it was time to speak up as a vet nurse and pet owner to ensure no one gets into trouble and some charities get medicines in the approved way.

Donating, sharing, giving away – what does this mean?

It is illegal to sell, share or give away your pets prescription medicines, even if you no longer need them or wish to donate them to charity. Under UK and EU law the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) would class anyone who shares, gives away or donates prescription medicines directly to a charity as “supplying veterinary medicines” and would be subject to VMD regulations.

To supply veterinary prescription medicines you need to be a Registered Qualified Person (RQP), supply the medication from an approved premises and meet a huge number of criteria to ensure the safe handling and administration of the medicines, as well as meeting a number of other criteria. Sometimes my home has felt like a pet pharmacy when I have had some very sickly pets but even I’ve not been registered as a veterinary pharmacy!

How bad is it really?

I’m not saying this to frighten anyone but the regulations and legislation on supplying medicines is very strict and if you give away medicines you may get into a lot of trouble, your vets may get into a lot of trouble and you may end up causing harm – which I’m sure you don’t want to do.

Controlled drugs such as tramadol or gabapentin may end up in the wrong hands or be incorrectly and dangerously used. Chemotherapy drugs while costly are used for specific cases and if handled incorrectly can cause serious harm to humans and animals even if they are not used.

Even sharing pictures of the medicines you wish to donate is breaking the law on advertising veterinary medicines so please don’t share pictures of your medicines on social media.

What CAN you do?

This might all sound very doom and gloom and I understand that if you’re trying to help people after your pet has passed that it can seem very unkind and picky to stop you doing this, so what can you do?

Most importantly, your vet practice is the ONLY place to return all your prescription medication to as it will be handled safely and if possible donated to a charity. If you cannot get back to your prescribing vet practice which may be the case if your pet was treated at a referral practice please contact them to see if you can take the medicines back to your local vet practice and make sure they know you are doing this. Particularly with some medicines like chemotherapy drugs they will need to make sure they have the correct equipment for safely handling and storing the medicines.

Charities can’t take all medicines offered so please don’t be upset if all of your donations can’t be used, this is for safety and not a reflection on your generosity. It is very kind of you to think of others when you have lost your pet and also beneficial to those charities that work with vet practices to get medicines.

If it helps anyone it took me 4 months to go through Tillie’s medications after she passed away. I had a lot of dismay and anger at her death and am really only now facing up to that and admitting she has gone. I took her medicines to my local vets and they have donated them to charity, finding a place helping another elderly cat live a life as good as Tillie’s in their twilight years.

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