Much as we all love our furry friends, the safeguarding processes just aren’t the same as they are for human beings. In most cases, people working with animals don’t need a DBS check, but there are a few important exceptions.
Therapy animals are generally dogs, but also sometimes cats or other animals, which are taken into hospitals, care homes or other settings to improve the health and general wellbeing of staff members. Although working with the animal isn’t regulated activity, going into hospitals and schools is, and so just as with any other volunteers, people volunteering with therapy animals need a DBS check too. To add to the confusion though this only applies to people who are volunteering regularly, defined as once a week, or no more than three times in a 30-day period. Most therapy animal volunteers going into a hospice or adult hospital setting need a standard DBS check, and enhanced checks will be run on people who are volunteering in children’s hospices, schools, or hospitals.
Another class of people who work with animals and will need an enhanced DBS Check is anyone who works as a riding instructor. Again, the issue in this case is that the person is having close contact with children who are learning to ride, rather than with the horses. Any parent who is thinking of enrolling their child in riding lessons should check with the stables whether their adult staff are DBS checked before committing to lessons. Many stables will also use teenage staff to perform other duties, and as young people under the age of 16 cannot obtain a DBS check, you should not expect these people to have a certificate.
Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers
It’s common to outsource responsibility for walking your dog when you’re at work, and increasingly common to get someone to come into your house and pet-sit while you’re off on holiday. Pet sitting and dog walking doesn’t come under the regulated activity heading, but it’s only natural that you want to check out anyone who is going to be coming into your home. A Basic DBS check will reveal any current, unspent criminal convictions and cautions, and is a good general indication of someone’s character. If you organise your pet sitting services through a large agency, then they should be happy to tell you which checks their staff have had.
Vets also need to have a DBS check, but just once and when entering the profession for the first time as a condition of being registered. Vets need a standard DBS check, and they will usually apply for this when leaving University and starting their first job.
Although most jobs working with animals therefore don’t qualify for an automatic DBS check, there are lots of situations in which work or voluntary positions might. Take some time to understand the rules and seek clarification from the DBS if you are unsure whether your animal-related work meets the criteria.