NAVTA approves specialty status for behavior technicians

Pet behavior has always been an issue for owners, but a new specialty should help fill the demand for technicians in that area.

Behavior is the fifth veterinary technician specialty to be accredited by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA). The Committee on Veterinary Technician Specialties (CVTS), which reviews specialty-status petitions for NAVTA, recommended approval of the Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians’ (SVBT) petition last month. The behavior specialty will be made official at the North American Veterinary Conference in January.

The SBVT will continue to exist, but now the Academy of Veterinary Behavior Technicians exists as well, said CVTS Chairwoman Amy Butzier. Society membership is open to anyone, but technicians must qualify and pass a special exam to join an academy and be called specialists. She said CVTS received the petition in April, and approved it without reservation.

“I think that this specialty is going to be very popular and in great demand,” Butzier said.

Julie Shaw, senior animal behavior technologist at Purdue University is very excited about the new specialty status for behavior.

“If you compare it to the other specialties, veterinary behavior is very, very new,” Shaw said. “The fact that, here we are, we already have our specialty, I think it says a lot for veterinary behavior.”

Shaw said the behavior field is growing fast, and behavior technicians will be a benefit to veterinarians and their clients.

“People are looking at their pets differently these days – they are part of the family,” Shaw said. “The veterinary technician takes on a huge role for their pet. It really bonds the people to the veterinary technician and the practice.”

‘Huge public demand’

With only 46 board-certified veterinary behaviorists in North America, the new technician specialty could help fill a growing need in companion animal medicine.

“Technicians that are trained in behavior are valuable, especially to behaviorists,” said Bonnie Beaver, DVM, executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. “They understand the concepts and are then able to go in and say [to clients], ‘this is how Dr. Beaver would have you structure this program.’”

Beaver, a professor at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine, said that the need for treatment of behavior-related pet problems is growing.  

“There’s a huge public demand for it,” she said. “One of the problems we see is we’re not, right now, capable of filling all that demand.”

She said that about 50 percent of all dogs and cats that wind up in shelters are there because of a behavior problem. And many of those animals are eventually euthanized.

“That means that behavior problems are the largest single cause of animal death,” Beaver said.

Shaw said she expects at least five applicants for the first behavior specialty exam, which will be offered in July next year. She is also editing a textbook for veterinary technician behavior specialists, expected to be published in 2010.