From 1 January 2018, all persons registered to practice as vets under the Veterinary Practice Act must be covered by a policy of professional indemnity insurance. Whilst no doubt many prudent practitioners would have this cover in place before now, it is surprising that this has not been a regulatory requirement.

The Veterinary Council of Ireland ("VCI") has amended the regulations to include an obligation that all registered persons have "appropriate" cover in place. 

"Appropriate cover", for the purpose of the regulations, means "cover against liabilities that may be incurred in practising as such which is appropriate, having regard to the nature and extent of the risks of practising as such".

This quite vague requirement may be contrasted with other professions such as solicitors, who are required to have a minimum level of cover in terms of monetary amount and specific activities covered, in order to meet with the regulatory requirements of their profession.

The VCI has the power to compel a practitioner to produce policy details when requested, and the regulations also place a positive obligation on practitioners to inform the VCI if cover has ceased.

Ultimately, the VCI has the power to refuse or withdraw a registered person's licence to practice for failure to comply, although interestingly it does appear that the VCI has discretion not to take such action.

It will be interesting to see whether the VCI have any appetite for enforcement against practitioners who fail to comply with the requirement, particularly in respect of practitioners who may be unable, rather than unwilling, to procure cover in the market.