Information for Owners

  • What is SAVSNET?

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    SAVSNET stands for the Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network. This is a national project designed to find out the most common reasons for our pets to visit the vet. We want to see if there is anything which makes some animals more likely to get ill. The aim is to use this information to try and improve the health of our pets.

    SAVSNET is a collaboration between the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) and the University of Liverpool. We are working with small animal vets like yours from around the country.

    SAVSNET is seeking your permission to collect information from your vet about why you have come to see them today. If you would prefer not to take part, all you need do is tell your vet. You will not be personally identifiable from the information we collect.

  • Why am I being asked to take part?

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    We are currently collecting information from vets across the UK. Your vet has kindly agreed to take part in SAVSNET because they have recognised the benefit this type of information could provide to their patients.

    Taking part in SAVSNET is quick and easy, it will not require any of your time.

  • What information is SAVSNET collecting?

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    The information we want to collect is about the pets who visit their vet. We are NOT collecting the owner’s name, house number, street name, or town, the name or address of their vet, or any financial information about how owners pay for their pet’s consultation.

    We aim to collect two types of information about pets each time they are brought to the vet.

    Type 1: Routine information

    This is information that is already recorded by your vet and includes:

    • The pet’s species (e.g. cat, dog, rabbit)
    • The pet’s breed
    • The pet’s date/year of birth
    • The pet’s sex (male/female)
    • The nature of the condition
    • Any treatments given to the pet
    • The postcode – this information will help us to see where in the country there is more disease appearing.

    An example of what this information may look like is shown below:

    example pet data table

    Type 2: Simple, but specific additional question(s)

    At the end of each consultation, your vet will be asked a few questions about the reason for the visit. Your vet will not need to ask owners anything extra, the questions will be very simple.

    An example of the type of questions we will ask is:

    Was this pet brought to the vets today because it has diarrhoea?

    • Option 1. Yes
    • Option 2. No
    • Option 3. Owner wishes not to take part in this study

    Option 1: If the answer is “yes”, this will be followed by a few simple questions to tell us how severe the diarrhoea may be. For example, “how long has the diarrhoea been going on for?” or “is there any blood in the diarrhoea?” These are simple questions which will give meaningful results, but that we will not unnecessarily delay owners or vets.

    Option 2: If the answer is “no”, then your vet will not be asked any further questions.

    Option 3: Alternatively, if an owner does not wish not to take part, this is the point at which your vet can exclude all related information from the project (see also FAQ 5). These questions will be changed on a regular basis, so that we can collect information on a wide range of diseases; for example coughing, lameness, etc.

  • Why is it important for me to take part?

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    Without the support of pet owners like you, this project would not be possible. There is little information available on how common diseases are for our pet animals. The information will only be used to improve the health of our pets.

  • How will SAVSNET improve the health of the UK small animal population?

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    The information collected by SAVSNET will start to build a picture of the type of diseases experienced by our pets and where they appear in the country. This may also help us understand why some animals get ill and others do not. For example, is it their age, or their breed, or perhaps where in the country they live that might contribute to why a particular pet gets poorly? The aim is to create a computer based system for the collection of anonymised diagnosis from veterinary premises in order to provide statistically significant prevalence data (as per the Bateson report).

    This information will help to:

    • Produce reports which will help pet owners understand, prevent and control a range of diseases.
    • Identify new diseases early in their development.
    • Inform vets of the diseases that are of particular concern in their local area.
  • Can I be identified from the information collected?

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    Information collected will be anonymous. For example we will not collect your name, your pet’s name or your postal address. However, we are collecting the full postcode of where the animal lives. This will only be available to the SAVSNET team and approved scientists (see who will have access to the information?). It is important for us to collect this information to allow us to identify the location of where disease is occurring in the UK.

    For the vast majority of households, the postcode is not unique, so individual houses cannot be identified. However, we are aware that in rare cases, there may be some postcodes with only one residence.

    In order to further protect your privacy, SAVSNET will only indicate where diseases are occurring at the level of the first half of the postcode. For example, our postcode is CH64 7TE, but we will only present it as being in the CH64 area. In this way, it will never be possible for others to identify who has contributed to SAVSNET.

    We are also aware that certain breeds are considered ‘rare’ and owners of such breeds may be concerned about being identified. In order to address this we will make all reasonable efforts when producing reports, to lower the reporting resolution for rare breeds or animals, such that they cannot be identified.

  • Is my information safe?

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    Yes. SAVSNET has a responsibility under the Data Protection Act 1998 to protect your personal information and that of your pet. All information collected by us will be stored on a secure password-protected data storage system.

    In addition, in order to maintain a high level of security, information in its raw form will not be allowed to be saved by SAVNET onto other devices including laptop computers, portable external hard-drives or USB flash drives, unless it is encrypted.

  • What do I have to do if I want to take part?

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    You do not need to do anything to take part in SAVSNET. Your vet should not need to ask you for any additional information. All the information we collect will be recorded at the end of your consultation, so it should not unnecessarily delay your stay.

  • What if I do NOT wish to take part?

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    Taking part in SAVSNET is entirely up to you. If, for whatever reason, you decide you do not wish to take part, all you need to do is tell your vet during each consultation that you do not want to be part of the SAVSNET project. We call this “opting-out”. They will then exclude all of your data relating to the current consultation from the project (please read FAQ 3 for further information).

    Please also be assured that you will not be treated any differently by us or your vet if you decide to opt out.

  • How will the information be presented?

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    Data collected as part of the SAVSNET project will be anonymised, analysed and summarised on the SAVSNET web site. We also hope to put reports in this folder that you are reading now, and to publish them in the veterinary press. The following charts are examples of how the results should look in the future. Please note, they were created using made-up information.

    example pet data table

  • Who will have access to the information in the basic form in which it is collected?

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    The information SAVSNET collects in its most basic, unsummarised form, contains postcodes. Access to information in this form is strictly limited to SAVSNET–approved scientists, and protected by a secure log-in to keep it completely safe.

    Approval of scientists is overseen by the SAVSNET management committee (see who manages SAVSNET?). Approved scientists will need to be from a recognised research centre, have a proven record, and have proposed an important question, the answer to which would have clear benefit to our pet animals and/or their owners.

  • Will I have access to any of the information?

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    Nobody outside of the SAVSNET team and approved scientists (see FAQ 12) will be allowed to see the information in the raw form we collect it. However, anonymised, summaries of the information we collect will be available on the SAVSNET website www.savsnet.co.uk, and will include charts and graphs that allow you to see what is happening in the UK. See FAQ 10 for examples of what this will look like. These will be available for everyone to see and we hope they will build up into a comprehensive picture of small animal diseases across the UK. To reiterate, owners or animals will never be identifiable.

  • Who is funding SAVSNET?

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    SAVSNET is funded by the British Small Animal Veterinary Association. The BSAVA exists to promote excellence in small animal practice through education and science.

  • Has data collection been approved?

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    Yes. SAVSNET has ethical approval from the University of Liverpool and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, professional regulators of UK vets. This allows us to collect and analyse data so that veterinary surgeons caring for animals can be provided with important information about diagnosis and disease surveillance.

  • Who manages SAVSNET?

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    The day-to-day work of SAVSNET is carried out by a core team based at University of Liverpool. The project is managed through SAVSNET Ltd, a registered charity with directors from both the BSAVA and University of Liverpool.

  • What do I do if I want to complain?

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    If you are unhappy with any aspect of this project, please feel free to let us know by contacting us on 0151 795 6005 and we will try to help.

    If you remain unhappy, or have a complaint which you feel you cannot come to us with, then you should contact the Research Governance Officer on 0151 794 8290 (ethics@liverpool.ac.uk), stating the name of the project (SAVSNET), and the details of the complaint or concerns you wish to make.