Code of Conduct, Anti-Bullying policy and Complaints Procedure

Code of conduct

This Code sets out certain minimum standards for conduct with which Members of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors are required to comply.

Any disciplinary function of the APBC Committee shall be guided by the Code of Conduct, but mention or lack of mention in the Code of Conduct of a particular act or omission shall not be taken as conclusive on any question of professional conduct.

Full and Provisional Members must comply with all aspects of the Code; Student and Academic Members must comply with such aspects that apply to their level of study and research.

1. General

A Pet Behaviour Counsellor has expertise in dealing with the behaviour of individual animals which has resulted in one or more of the following: a decrease in the quality of life of the animal or its owner, or other animals or people; threat or potential threat to human or animal safety; nuisance or perceived nuisance to members of the public.

Pet Behaviour Counsellors have completed training to an approved level commensurate with their membership so that they have an understanding of the principles applicable to all relevant vertebrate species.

In all their work Pet Behaviour Counsellors shall conduct themselves in a manner that does not bring into disrepute the discipline and the profession of animal behaviour. They shall value integrity, impartiality and respect for persons and evidence and shall seek to establish the highest ethical standards in their work. Taking account of their obligations under the law, they shall hold the interest and welfare of those in receipt of their services to be paramount at all times, and ensure that the interests of participants in any research are safeguarded. They must familiarise themselves and comply with all relevant legislation, including that regarding animal welfare and the provision of psychological services, and the codes of practice of the appropriate professional bodies, such as the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the British Psychological Society.

2. Competence

Pet Behaviour Counsellors shall endeavour to maintain and develop their professional competence, to recognise and work within its limits, and to identify and ameliorate factors which restrict it.

Specifically they shall:

2.1 refrain from laying claim, directly or indirectly, to qualifications or affiliations they do not possess, from claiming competence in any particular area of applied animal behaviour in which they have not established their competence, and from claiming characteristics or capabilities for themselves or others which they do not possess;

2.2 recognise the boundaries of their own competence and not attempt to practise any form of applied animal behaviour for which they do not have an appropriate preparation or, where applicable, specialist qualification;

2.3 take all reasonable steps to ensure that their qualifications, capabilities or views are not misrepresented by others, and to correct any such misrepresentations;

2.4 where the services they judge to be appropriate are outside their personal competence, give every reasonable assistance towards obtaining those services from others who are appropriately qualified to provide them;

2.5 receive cases on referral from a veterinary surgeon or otherwise take all reasonable steps to rule out or identify medical conditions that may be contributing to undesirable behaviour.

2.6 take all reasonable steps to ensure that diagnosis and treatment of medical disorders in an animal that may be associated with a problem behaviour are carried out by a veterinary surgeon or other person designated as appropriate by relevant legislation;

2.7 take all reasonable steps to ensure that those working under their direct supervision comply with each of the foregoing, in particular that they recognise the limits of their competence and do not attempt to practise beyond them.

3. Obtaining consent

Pet Behaviour Counsellors shall normally carry out investigations or interventions only with the valid consent of participants, having taken all reasonable steps to ensure that they have adequately understood the nature of the investigation or intervention and its anticipated consequences.

Specifically they shall:

3.1 refrain from making exaggerated, sensational and unjustifiable claims for the effectiveness of their methods and products, from advertising services or products in a way likely to encourage unrealistic expectations about the effectiveness of the services or products offered, or from misleading those to whom services are offered about the nature and likely consequences of any interventions to be undertaken;

3.2 take all reasonable steps to ensure that the consent of those to whom interventions are offered obtained is valid.

3.3 recognise and uphold the rights of recipients of services to withdraw consent to interventions or other professional procedures after they have commenced and terminate or recommend alternative services when there is evidence that those in receipt of their services are deriving no benefit from them.

4. Confidentiality

Pet Behaviour Counsellors shall maintain adequate records, but they shall take all reasonable steps to preserve the confidentiality of information acquired through their professional practice and to protect the privacy of individuals or organisations about whom information is collected or held. In general, and subject to the requirements of law, they shall take care to prevent the identity of individuals or organisations being revealed, deliberately or inadvertently, without their expressed permission.

Specifically they shall:

4.1 endeavour to communicate information obtained through practice in ways which do not permit the identification of individuals or organisations;

4.2 convey personally identifiable information obtained in the course of professional work to others only with the expressed permission of those who would be identified, (subject always to the best interests of recipients of services and subject to the requirements of law and agreed working practices) except that when working in a team or with collaborators they shall endeavour to make clear to recipients of services or participants in research the extent to which personally identifiable information may be shared between colleagues or others within a group receiving the services;

4.3 in exceptional circumstances, where there is sufficient evidence to raise serious concern about the safety or interests of recipients of services, or about others who may be threatened by the recipient’s behaviour, may take such steps as are judged necessary to inform appropriate third parties without prior consent after first consulting an experienced and disinterested colleague, except that where such information has been obtained from a member of another profession, the rules of that profession for such disclosure shall apply;

4.4 take all reasonable steps to ensure that records over which they have control remain personally identifiable only as long as is necessary in the interests of those to whom they refer, and to render anonymous any records under their control that no longer need to be personally identifiable for the above purposes;

4.5 only make audio, video, or photographic recordings of recipients of services with the expressed agreement of those being recorded both to the recording being made and to the subsequent conditions of access to it;

4.6 take all reasonable steps to safeguard the security of any records they make, including those held on computer;

4.7 take all reasonable steps to ensure that colleagues, staff, trainees and students with whom they work understand and respect the need for confidentiality regarding any information obtained.

5. Personal conduct

Pet Behaviour Counsellors shall conduct themselves in their professional activities in a way that does not damage the interest of the recipients of their services and does not inappropriately undermine public confidence in their ability or that of other animal behaviourists and members of other professions to carry out their professional duties.

Specifically they shall:

5.1 refrain from improper conduct in their work as animal behaviourists that would be likely to be detrimental to the interests of recipients of their services or participants in their research;

5.2 neither attempt to secure or to accept from those receiving their service any significant financial or material benefit beyond that which has been contractually agreed, nor to secure directly from them any such benefit for services which are already rewarded by salary;

5.3 not exploit any relationship of influence or trust which exists between colleagues, those under their tuition, or those in receipt of their services to further the gratification of their personal desires;

5.4 not allow their professional responsibilities or standards of practice to be diminished by considerations of religion, sex, race, age, nationality, party politics, social standing, class, self-interest or other extraneous factors;

5.5 refrain from practice when their physical or psychological condition, as a result of for example alcohol, drugs, illness or personal stress, is such that abilities or professional judgement are seriously impaired;

5.6 value and have respect for all relevant evidence and the limits of such evidence when giving behavioural advice or expressing a professional opinion;

5.7 value and have respect for scientific evidence and the limits of such evidence when making public statements that provide information about animal behaviour and animal welfare;

5.8 refrain from claiming credit for the research and intellectual property of others and give due credit to the contributions of others in collaborative work;

5.9 take steps to maintain adequate standards of safety in the use of all procedures and equipment used in professional practice;

5.10 bring allegations of misconduct by a professional colleague to the attention of those charged with the responsibility to investigate them, doing so without malice and with no breaches of confidentiality other than those necessary to the proper investigatory processes and when the subject of allegations themselves, they shall take all reasonable steps to assist those charged with responsibility to investigate them.

6. Complaints and Disciplinary Procedure

The APBC Committee has a procedure for dealing with complaints and issues relating to conduct to enable the investigation of allegations of misconduct against a Member. All investigations are conducted in private and all Members must assist with the investigation.

7. Liability

The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors shall not be liable to Members for any claims, losses, damages or other expenses (either direct, special or consequential) arising as a result of any dispute between a Member and their client or a third party in relation to any professional advice or treatment given. Pet Behaviour Counsellors shall hold professional indemnity insurance at an adequate level and sufficient to meet any liabilities which might arise as a result of their professional practice. Membership and renewal of membership shall be dependent upon the production of proof of such insurance, and shall be deemed to have been withdrawn if such insurance lapses.

8. Descriptions

8.1 Only current Full Members of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors may use the term “Member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors”. Only Full Members are entitled to use the APBC logo, which is trademarked with the Intellectual Property Office. If anyone who is not a current Member were to use the term or logo the Association would seek an injunction or to take other legal measures to restrain the person concerned from wrongly representing themselves.

8.2 Whereas all Members can state the nature of their affiliation with the APBC in speech or the body of text only Full Members may do so on letterheads, footnotes and any publicity material.

8.3 Only the following specific form of words may be used by Provisional Members to describe themselves: “I am (or “name is”) a provisional member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC), which means having gained the relevant academic qualifications I am (or “name is”) gaining the practical experience necessary for full membership” in the body of text. Using descriptions of provisional membership other than this could result in membership being suspended or withdrawn.

8.4 Only the following specific form of words may be used by Student Members to describe themselves: “I am (or “name is”) a student member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC), and I am (or “name is”) studying (name of course) at (name of academic institution)” in the body of text. Using descriptions of student membership other than this could result in membership being suspended or withdrawn.

Complaints Procedure

Complaints Procedure PDF Download

Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors- Complaints Procedure

1. Aims of the APBC

1.1 The aims of the APBC are set out in our website here:

2. Aims of the APBC’s complaints procedure

2.1 To ensure that all complaints are handled and investigated in a professional manner.

2.2. To treat all complainants and APBC members fairly within the principles of the APBC constitution, the APBC code of practice and the general law.

2.3 To seek resolution between the complainant and the APBC member.

2.4 To seriously investigate all complaints.

2.5 To apply the complaints procedure to all levels of APBC Membership.

3. What constitutes a valid complaint?

3.1 Any material breach of the Code of Conduct of the APBC.

Examples of complaints:

  1. Misleading or unscientific information on members’ marketing materials.
  2. Failing to maintain adequate insurance.
  3. Causing avoidable harm, contrary to the welfare interests of an animal.

4. When would a complaint be dismissed?

4.1 Complaints that do not relate to a breach of the code of conduct may be dismissed.

Examples of issues which will not be considered complaints:

  1. Failure to satisfactorily resolve a client’s problem insofar as reasonable.
  2. Failure to keep an appointment.
  3. Pointing out the failings or mistakes of others working within the field of animal behaviour and training to clients or veterinary personnel. Others may include non-APBC members or those who are working within or out with the regulatory body of the ABTC.

5. Who may make a complaint?

5.1 Anyone may make a complaint, including members of the public, other members, veterinary professionals, and other organisations. This list is not exhaustive.

6. When should a complaint be made to the APBC?

6.1 It is expected that the complainant first approaches the APBC member to raise the complaint and to give them an opportunity to respond. Complaints that have not been addressed initially to the APBC member would not be subject to the full complaints’ procedure. There should be the opportunity for the complaint to be resolved between the two parties in the first instance.

6.2 In this initial stage the complainant should state that they are making an official complaint. Thus, APBC members should respond within 28 days using their own complaints procedure.

6.3 If there is no response within this 28-day timeframe, or the complainant is not happy with the response, they can then bring this to the APBC complaints committee and a Complaints Manager will be assigned.

6.4 If there are reasons why the complainant feels they are unable to approach the member directly then they can approach the APBC in the first instance. In such cases, they must inform the APBC Complaints Manager of the situation. An example might be a complaint of bullying.

7. Contact methods

7.1 All emails sent from the APBC regarding the complaint must use the ‘received receipt’ function on sending.

7.2 Written information is required unless agreed otherwise, at the discretion of the Complaints Manager. If the Complaints Manager deems appropriate, recorded virtual meetings (can be audio only) may be used. If this option is utilised then the member or complainant will be contacted and agreement reached for a date and time. No one will be “cold called” and questioned.

7.3 Virtual calls between the Complaints Manager and the member or complainant will last no longer than 30 minutes – if this is not sufficient time then both parties should agree another date and time.

7.4 Discussion of the actual complaint between the Complaints Manager and member will only happen once the member has been informed in writing of the nature of the complaint and provided with copies of all documentation relating to it. Any calls will be recorded and kept in line with the complaints’ procedure.

8. Time Frames

8.1 Any complaint must be brought to the APBC within 2 years of the issue that is being complained about. If a complaint is older than that time frame the complaint will be dismissed.

8.2 Time frames are set out in this document – these are superseded by any time frames which are given by the Complaints Manager.

8.3 Information sent outside of the time frames will not be assessed unless there are exceptional circumstances.

9. The complaints procedure – the Complainant

9.1 All complaints must be made in writing and submitted by either e-mail or post to the APBC office. The complainant will give their full name, contact telephone number, e-mail address (if available) and postal address. Full contact details will be requested by the office if not initially provided. They should also confirm whether they have already raised a complaint with the APBC member (as per section 6).

Anonymous complaints will be disregarded.

9.2 The complaint will be logged at the administrative office. Membership status of the individual will be checked and if found not to be a current member the complainant will be informed that no action can be taken by the APBC.

9.3 The letter or email of the complaint and contact details of the member will be passed to the designated Complaints Manager within the APBC complaints committee.

9.4 The Complaints Manager will contact the complainant by e-mail or letter to ascertain the exact terms of the complaint (‘Further Information Request’).

9.5 The complainant will be given a time frame to send the Complaints Manager further information. This is normally 21 days but will be confirmed in the Further Information Request sent by email or letter. If no further information is brought by this time limit, the complaint is assessed on the information already provided. If the initial contact did not provide satisfactory information, it will render the complaint null and void, and the complaint will be dismissed. The complainant will be informed of this decision.

9.6 If the complainant refers to independent parties who may be able to support the complaint, the validity of this will be checked by the Complaints Manager.

9.7 If the complainant supplies names and contact details (telephone number, e-mail address and postal address) of those independent parties referred to above then they will be contacted in writing by the Complaints Manager. Failure to provide contact details will mean no contact will be made.

9.8 The precise details of the complaint will be ascertained and documented by the Complaints Manager and submitted to the complainant for agreement.

9.9 The complainant will be made aware of and agree that all documentation and direct copies of the complaint will be sent to the APBC member for their response.

10. The complaints procedure – the APBC Member

10.1 Once the Complaints Manager has ascertained that the complaint is one that needs investigation and they have all the information they require, they will contact the member in writing (by e-mail or post). The Complaints Manager will explain the terms of the complaint, including the name of the complainant and witnesses if appropriate. The Complaints Manager will forward copies of all relevant documentation to the member by either e-mail or recorded delivery.

10.2 The member will be asked to confirm receipt of the complaint via email to the APBC office. The office will log that the complaint has been received.

10.3 If a response hasn’t been received within 14 days, the APBC Office will contact the member again via email or telephone to determine whether the complaint has been received. If there is no response 14 days after this, the Complaints Manager will assess the complaint on the information they have.

10.4 The member will be asked to submit a written response to the allegations within 21 days of confirmed receipt. Extensions to this may be granted at the discretion of the Complaints Manager, but requests must be received within the 21 days.

10.5 If any further information is required, it will be requested at the discretion of the Complaints Manager and time frames for this will be communicated to the member.

10.6 The Complaints Manager will confirm with both parties that all information has been received, and the time frame in which a decision will be reached. This is normally 4 weeks after confirmation, but a clear timeframe will be provided in the written communication.

10.7 The Complaints Manager will assess the information they have from both parties to decide the outcome of the complaint.

11. Complaints Manager Assessment

11.1 If the Complaints Manager deems the written response from the APBC member reasonable and satisfactory, then the complaint will not be upheld. No further action will be necessary and both parties will be informed in writing.

11.2 In the eventuality that Complaints Manager does not consider that the member’s written response is reasonable then the member will be informed in writing and the complaint will be upheld.

12. Outcome of the complaint assessment

12.1 If the complaint is not upheld, then no record will be kept, and it will not be used in any future proceedings. The process is entirely confidential. Only the complainant(s), the APBC member, independent parties (9.6) and the APBC complaints committee will have access to the relevant information relating to the complaint.

12.2 The complaint may be not upheld, but the Complaints Manager provides recommendations to the member, with no liabilities. Recommendations are only recommendations and thus the APBC member is not under any obligation to follow this recommendation.

12.3 If the complaint is upheld then a record will be kept on file for five years, and knowledge of this complaint may be taken into account if other complaints of a similar nature are received in the future. A sanction is likely in this case.

12.4 Details of an upheld complaint will not be passed on to any other organisation either formally or informally, apart from the regulator (the ABTC) if appropriate, or law enforcement agencies (if a legal requirement exists to do so).

13. Sanctions.

13.1 Sanctions will reflect the gravity of the offence; for example, they may include offering an apology to the complainant, completing CPD within a specified timeframe, or expulsion for serious or continuing failures. Sanctions will be given a time limit in which the APBC member is expected to comply. Failure to comply with recommendations may result in further disciplinary actions by the Complaints Manager.

13.2 Sanctions when a complaint is upheld may include:

–       Removal from register

–       Suspension from register

  •       Reprimand

13.3 The APBC has no authority to order payment of a fine or compensation of any kind. If a complainant seeks compensation or refund of monies the complainant may wish to pursue this through the courts.

14. Appeals against the Complaints Manager’s decision

14.1 The complainant or the APBC member can appeal against the Complaints Manager’s decision. This must be received no later than 8 weeks of the Decision Letter.

14.2 Appeals will be assessed if there are exceptional circumstances (i.e., one of the parties was incapacitated at the time of requesting information) or if one of the parties has further evidence they wish to be considered.

14.3 The Appeal will be assessed by another Complaints Manager (appointed as the Appeals CM), who will be another member of the APBC Committee, and all information will be passed on. The same procedure as set out in the earlier sections will apply. It is very likely that, in the absence of further evidence, the assessment outcome will be the same. The Appeals CM would also need to know why the further evidence was not presented when requested for the initial assessment.

14.4 If the Appeals CM agrees with the findings of the initial decision, both parties will be informed in writing. This will form our Final Decision (see Section 16).

14.5 If the Appeals CM finds a different outcome depending on the information provided, then both parties will be informed in writing. This will form our Final Decision. (See Section 16).

15. Negotiations of the complaints

15.1 In rare circumstances, if the Appeals CM deems it appropriate, then negotiation with the complainant and member may be appropriate to reach a satisfactory resolution of the complaint.

15.2 In this case, the complainant and member will be asked to attend a specially chaired meeting of the APBC.

15.3 This meeting should take place at a convenient location for both parties, at a time and date that is suitable. This may also take place online when all parties can be present. The member will be given 28 days written notice to attend a meeting of the Committee and written details of the complaint made against them.

15.4 The complaints panel will consist of a new Complaints Manager (different to the initial Complaints Manager), and any other members of the APBC complaints committee as agreed upon by the Committee. The member and complainant will be allowed the opportunity to be accompanied by another. In addition, the member and complainant will be given the opportunity to present their case or ask another (e.g., solicitor) to do so for them.

15.5 It shall be for the complaints panel to determine the nature of the meeting and whether cross examination is appropriate. If either the member or complainant declines or refuses to attend such a meeting, it may proceed in their absence.

Within 21 days of the meeting, a decision will be made by the Appeals CM and other committee members. No member may be expelled unless at least two thirds of the committee then present votes in favour of the member’s expulsion.

The member and complainant will be informed of this decision in writing.

16. Final Decision

16.1 The Final Decision signals the end of our complaints procedure. This will be issued once both parties have been through the Assessment (section 12), and/or Appeal (section 14), and/or Negotiations (section 15) stage. If any party is unhappy with the Final Decision, the next stage is to approach the Animal Behaviour and Training Council Disciplinary Procedure.

Privacy Notice:

The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC) is collecting your data in order to process your complaint against an APBC member. By contacting the APBC to make a complaint about a member you are consenting for your personal details: name, address, phone number, email address, and details contained within correspondence between you and the APBC member which you are complaining about to be kept and used by the APBC to fully investigate and process your complaint. Your electronic details will be held on a secure computer, Microsoft cloud and email server, all paper copies of your details will be held in a secure filing cabinet and office. Once your complaint has been closed your electronic details will be permanently erased and paper copies securely shredded. You can request to view our records of your personal details at any time by telephone: +44-(0)-7483-429997 or email: and the APBC will fulfil this request within 28 days. You can also withdraw your personal details via the same correspondence methods, however by doing so you will also be required to withdraw your complaint as the APBC cannot effectively undertake your complaint without the personal details referred to above.