Veterinary sector comes together again for Antibiotic Amnesty this November: Project leads call for more practices to sign up to this important initiative to protect the efficacy of antibiotics and prevent environmental pollution

This November, for the second year running, the veterinary sector is coming together to run the Antibiotic Amnesty campaign which encourages the public to return out-of-date and unused antibiotics to help tackle the growing issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Following the success of the first ever veterinary Antibiotic Amnesty last year (2022) the collaborative campaign across the veterinary profession is returning and practices are actively being encouraged to take part and contribute to this important initiative.

The campaign is  designed to encourage members of the public to bring back unused or unwanted antibiotics to their vet practice for safe disposal. The amnesty is led by a collaboration of UK veterinary organisations, practices and charities to educate owners about antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and raise awareness of the importance of the safe use and disposal of these important medicines in order to address AMR and prevent environmental pollution.

Fergus Allerton, a vet working in the Midlands, who helps coordinate the veterinary Antibiotic Amnesty, says: “We want unused antibiotics to be disposed of safely. Studies show that leftover antibiotics are rarely returned to pharmacies or vets and are more commonly disposed of in household waste or down sinks and toilets. This could potentially contribute to AMR and have a negative impact on water quality, aquatic life and wildlife. Last year’s pilot amnesty campaign was a great success, and this year we want even more practices taking part. Working together, the veterinary community can help recover unused and out-of-date antibiotics from pet owners right across the country. The amnesty is an opportunity for all members of the veterinary team to raise awareness about antibiotic stewardship in general and contribute positively to the fight against AMR.”

Ian Ramsey,  Professor of Small Animal Medicine at the University of Glasgow and a past president of BSAVA who is also working alongside Fergus on the campaign says: “The Antibiotic Amnesty helps raise awareness of AMR with clients and will allow appropriate disposal and therefore help limit environmental pollution. It is also a great way for the profession to demonstrate its commitment to antimicrobial stewardship.

“It’s no secret that antibiotic residues have been detected in rivers around the world. Use of leftover or expired antibiotics could risk adverse effects and increase the risk of AMR if used for the wrong indication, and could delay a diagnosis. The Antibiotic Amnesty helps focus efforts and attention on AMR and we hope that by encouraging more practices to sign up this year we can educate owners, help reduce harm from inappropriate use, and protect the environment by encouraging safe disposal.

Antibiotic Amnesty toolkit for practices

A campaign toolkit has been developed for practices and comprises a range of promotional support assets including reception posters, pre-written social media posts, newsletter content, practice guidance documents, client hand-outs, animations for use on practice screens and social media, plus many more assets. There is also a guide advising practices of the practical steps they need to take over the coming months to get ready for the campaign. The campaign information and toolkit can be accessed via:

Practices can also sign up to receive regular email updates about the campaign via

As of June 2023 it is a regulatory requirement for all practices to actively take back medicines under the RCVS Practice Standards Scheme at veterinary general practitioner level.

But, says Fergus, returning unused antibiotics doesn’t have to just wait for November’s campaign: “If owners have unused antibiotics in their cupboards today, then the next time they visit their vet practice, it’s fine to return the packets – and this is exactly what we would encourage pet owners to do.”

The Antibiotic Amnesty is taking place during the entire month of November (2023), overlapping World Antibiotic Awareness Week (18-24 November). During the amnesty, practices are asked to encourage  pet owners will be encouraged to return out-of-date and unused antibiotics for safe disposal. Veterinary practices will also direct any human antibiotics to NHS pharmacies.

Fergus adds: “The veterinary profession has a responsibility to ensure judicious use of antimicrobials. AMR has been declared one of the top ten global public health threats by the World Health Organisation and all environmental contamination with antibiotics will only worsen this issue.

“The veterinary sector continues to collaborate with our human health colleagues on this amnesty, and in doing so we are adopting a One Health approach to support the welfare of people, pets and the planet. Together we can jointly help to reduce the risk of AMR and preserve the efficacy of important antimicrobials long into the future.”

2022 Antibiotic Amnesty feedback

Feedback* received from owners in response to the amnesty last year was encouraging, with most (94%) aware that giving leftover antibiotics to their pet for another illness/ problem or to another animal, risked side effects. The most common reason given for owners being left with unused antibiotics was the recovery of their pet before the end of the treatment course (21%). However, owners were less aware of the correct methods of disposal and the risks posed by environmental pollution, with a disturbing 46% having disposed of the antibiotics via household waste or down the sink or toilet, and 38% said they were holding on to them for potential future use, which is worrying.

List of participants in full 2023:

  • British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA)
  • British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA)
  • British Veterinary Association (BVA)
  • CVS Group
  • Federation of Independent Veterinary Practices (FIVP)
  • IVC Evidensia
  • Linnaeus
  • National Office of Animal Health (NOAH)
  • Responsible Use of Medicines Alliance – Companion Animal & Equine (RUMA CA&E)
  • Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS)
  • RCVS Knowledge
  • The Bella Moss Foundation
  • Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD)
  • VetPartners
  • Vets4Pets
  • PDSA

*139 respondents to the client survey in November 2022.