Saturday 29 May 2021

Do veterinarians have to report animal abuse in the USA and UK?

Until April 24, 2020, the state of Kentucky was the odd man out in terms of veterinarians having a duty to report animal abuse to the authorities. On that date Kentucky governor Andy Beshear signed Senate Bill 21 into law which empowers veterinarians to report suspected animal cruelty.

Tabby cat at vet
Tabby cat at vet. Pic: Pixabay.

And so, in the US, veterinarians in all 50 states have a mandatory duty to report animal abuse if they have reasonable cause to know or suspect that the animal has been subjected to cruelty or animal fighting and they shall report the matter to local law enforcement or bureau of animal protection.

In the UK, there is currently no mandatory reporting by veterinarians of animal abuse. It is obviously a difficult subject and there are privacy issues and I guess difficulties in making an accurate decision. There is an article on the BMJ website which states that UK veterinarians need special training to report cases of suspected animal abuse and neglect as per research published online in Vet Record. The purpose would be to boost confidence and skills in this difficult task.

There is a fear that the veterinarian will be breaching client confidentiality unjustifiably resulting in a loss of earnings. You could foresee the potential damage being incurred by the veterinarian's practice if they get it wrong. It could also leave the vet exposed to a claim in defamation.

A study found that in the UK around one third of veterinarians said that they had seen a case of suspected animal abuse in the past year but only 46% of these veterinarians had reported it to the authorities.

There is a known link between animal abuse leading to human abuse and violence against people. Therefore, it is clearly important to report animal abuse to the authorities. The recommendation to train veterinarians on this topic appears to have been mooted in late 2019.

I need some help on this because I do not see any search results indicating that the recommendation has been carried through to fruition. What I am thinking about it this: if veterinarians are trained on spotting animal abuse, they could adopt the US mandatory requirements if they have reasonable cause.

I don't have info on the rules on this topic in other countries. I'd expect there to be the same sort of ambivalence and difficulties. It is a very tricky topic. In the world of humans, there are many incorrect diagnoses of child abuse leading to parents losing their children for months and longer and being ostracised highlighting the difficulties.

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