A significant proportion of the veterinary profession is spent advocating for animal welfare due to veterinarians elevated sense of morality towards animals. This inclination is amplified in suspected cases of animal cruelty. Research depicts most veterinarians are hesitant in approaching these confronting cases and feel unconfident in their diagnosis of animal abuse. Subsequently, this creates a substantial barrier to reporting these suspected cases (Green et al.3). This report aims to lay down the foundation surrounding a veterinarian’s role in animal cruelty, a stable foundation which should be built upon in our careers through ongoing professional development. This clarity will be achieved by addressing four fundamental questions. How do we recognise animal abuse? Who are the stakeholders involved? Are veterinarians mandated to report? And What do you do next?
Under the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 it defines cruelty as the act of inflicting unnecessary pain/ injury or fear; overworking or overdriving an animal; transporting or confining an animal inappropriately; and inhumane euthanasia.(ACPA1) In accordance with the RSPCA, over the last 6 years the number of animal cruelty complaints, nationally, reached a top of 62,563 with only 0.004% of these complaints being prosecuted (2RSPCA). These statistics solidify the harsh reality that is cruelty. Although these cases are extremely confronting, clinicians unknowingly have the correct tools to manage these cases. Years of training in clinical reasoning, and a profound understanding of pathogeneses can enable the confident identification of animal cruelty acts. Therefore, encouraging Veterinarians to report could possibly increase the rate of prosecution thereby preventing further maltreatment.
Furthermore, there’s an underlying component to animal abuse we need to be aware of, which could make the moral obligation of reporting difficult to fulfil out of fear; this is domestic violence, a study by Green et al. stated approximately 20% of animal abuse cases have a link to domestic violence. Veterinarians may serve to protect animals, however, are employed by people. Therefore vets arguably have as much obligation to protecting public health as we do in animal health.