Should Veterinarians be required to report animal cruelty?

catladysgardenNovember 11, 2006

Should Veterinarians be required to report animal cruelty?

I'm interested in your thoughts on this subject. I can't take any stand because I see good and bad on both sides of the issue.

I'm sure you've all seen things at the Vet's office and just wanted to take that pet owner and rip his face off. How about this one, an old English Sheepdog with it's coat matted to the skin, covered with feces and being eaten alive by maggots?

Some Vets would turn this owner in. Some would do it through their staff, but not get personally involved. Some would just treat or euthanize the animal and say nothing because they are Veterinarians and not Police officers.

I've had a lot of ideas in the past and everytime I believe that I have a possible solution, somebody shoots it full of holes. They thought of something that I didn't and they were right.

What do you think?

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Yes, I think they should report law breaking pet owners.

Doctors and hospitals report gun shot wounds and abuse.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2006 at 2:36PM
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I really think veterinarians should be required to report pet owners whose animals are ill because of abuse/neglect. In the case of the sheep dog you mentioned, (which I really hope is a hypothetical example and not something you've actually had to witness) that is obvious gross neglect on the part of the owner. No animal that is cared for would wind up in that condition.

However, if someone intentionally abused/neglected an animal, I bet they would not take it to a vet in the first place. Our vet takes care of abused/neglected animals from time to time, but every case (that he's talked about) has been an animal that was found and rescued and brought to him by someone other than the owner.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2006 at 2:40PM
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If vets were required by law to report abuse, neglectful owners just wouldn't take them in. Also Animal control would probably just require them to seek medical attention which is what they did.
I'm sure vets will report in some cases. Others are best left up to their own judgement in my opinion. I've taken some rescues in and would have been terrified of being turned in, had I not known the vet. I've gotten some nasty looks from other clients, but let them think what they want if I don't get a chance to tell them it was a rescue.
Maybe that was the case with the matted filthy dog?

    Bookmark   November 11, 2006 at 2:55PM
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If someone came in and wanted to treat a pet that had obviously been neglected, I would treat the pet, no questions asked. I would not punish a person for doing the right thing, even if they were incredibly stupid for not realizing the condition of the pet sooner. I would try to counsel the owner on what clinical signs should have prompted a trip to the vet earlier. Also make sure the owner understands the severity of the condition, and how horrible the pet feels. Without trying to overly guilt-trip them. It's not easy. I've had to do it a couple of times.

If the person came in and didn't want to treat an obviously suffering animal, I would first try to convince the owner to surrender the pet, if the condition was severe enough to euthanize it, or call animal control if all other options were exhausted. It's only happened where I work twice. In one case, we had to get animal control involved because the dog was so anemic that she collapsed in the parking lot. We gave a blood transfusion and required the dog to be rechecked in the morning. Best care would have been to keep the dog hospitalized, but allowed the owner to take her home promising to recheck her in the morning. When they did not bring the dog in for the recheck, animal control had the owner surrender it. She was properly treated (needed another transfusion) and has a great home with a technician. The other one was a bunny full of maggots. The owners were going on vacation and didn't want to bother treating her for the 2 weeks they were going to be gone. A technician convinced the owners that it would be best for the bunny to have a new home. Technically I took her, but she lived at work in a luxury dog run for a couple of months during recovery since my husband is deathly allergic to bunnies. She eventually went to a bunny rescue organization. Unfortunately, Lily died there due to a really rare problem- her liver twisted upon itself. But Lily had a great life at work and with the rescuer.

The last thing I would want is for people to not come to a vet with a sick animal because they were afraid of being turned in to the cops. People who intentionally hurt animals don't generally bring them to the vet. Dog fighters rarely if ever have a dog see the vet. Abusers probably kill the pet more often than not, unfortunately.

I did have a case where I used to work of a cat being abused by the pre-teen son unbeknownst to the step-mom (at first). The indoor-only cat had a leg that was broken in many places. The mom didn't know what happened until she got into it with her stepson. In the end, since the cat was in pain and needed a lot of orthopedic work that she couldn't afford, she decided to have the cat euthanized. She shortly thereafter left the husband and stepson. She felt horrible, but it wasn't her fault. If she had been afraid to bring the cat to the vet, it would have suffered horribly and been exposed to repeated abuse.

Like beanne and petra said, not all people bringing in messed up animals are the neglecters/abusers. I wouldn't want to have a good samaritan penalized for helping a poor neglected animal. It's important not to jump to conclusions, to give people the benefit of the doubt, at least at first. You'd be surprised how good communication and education can turn around those you'd think would never learn and become excellent pet owners.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2006 at 4:48PM
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Petra, Unfortunately, the sheepdog situation was very real. I learned that the owner had brought the same dog in a year before in the same condition. That time, the animal was treated. This time, it was put to sleep. It couldn't stand up. One of the Veterinary technicians reported the owner.

I would like to see a requirement to report cruelty, however I fear that the bad guys would stop taking their victims to the Vet. I also know that the Veterinarians would fight such a law tooth and nail because they don't want to spend time in court, for one thing.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2006 at 6:11PM
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It is really hard to prove abuse...go the the Best Friends website and read all about it.

In some states..if you have the provisions on the premisis to take care of the cannot be arrested for abuse.

As in the many cases of horse owners who had dead/dying/starving horses on their property. But since there were hay bales on the property..they couldn't be arrested.

I think vets should be like ER people docs....if you see it.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2006 at 9:51PM
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meghane wrote,
"The last thing I would want is for people to not come to a vet with a sick animal because they were afraid of being turned in to the cops."
She is very right! Bad enough most cases of cruelty/abuse are from people who cannot afford to take their pet to a vet, (therefore, shouldn't have one, IMHO).... nobody would want anyone to fear taking one in like that. I know Vets that will and do, pending on circumstances, turn matters over to A.C. Once turned into proper authorities, a vet "usually" does not have to show up in court over the matter, just provide an evaluation report of the animal's physical condition for the case. It is very rare that they do. Nine times out of ten, the animal is surrendered & therefore, the judge will be very lenient on the abuser. IT IS THE JUDGES that are at fault when it comes to repeat animal abuser's... not the animal controls or veterinarians...although the laws pertaining to cruelty/abuse, do need A LOT of work.
The vast majority seem to just go out and get another pet to replace the surrendered one, and the same "repeated" process continues from there. So may loopholes.
So sad, yet so true! : (

    Bookmark   November 11, 2006 at 10:28PM
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You don't spend time in court. You are not liable for any blame for making reports that turn out to be wrong.

All medical personnel, social workers, (and I think) teachers and day care providers are required by law to report suspected neglect or abuse of children and of vulnerable adults. There are no repercussions at all. I reported a client just last week. I handled it by calling her and telling her what I had told the worker, how I also told the worker about strengths she has and what she has done to fix the situation. My client understood it (after initial anger) and she benefited by getting assistance from the worker. This system can work.

I do see how you would not want to discourage people from bringing animals in when they have been neglected or abused. I am not sure how you can do this and also mandate reporting.

Did any of you know that the child abuse and neglect laws were written years after the animal abuse and neglect laws were, and were patterned after them? It seems that in America at the turn of the last century you could be prosecuted for hurting your dog or horse, but you could still beat your kid. After all, the kid was YOURS to do with as you liked. Strange, huh?

    Bookmark   November 11, 2006 at 11:03PM
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Our clinic did report an owner who had severly beat an animal by their own admission. Depending on local laws in some areas once a neglected animal, like the sheepdog in the example, is brought to a vet then it can't be prosecuted because the owner is correcting the situation by bringing it to the vet.

Some years ago a puppy mill was raided in a town about 100 miles away. Over 300 animals were removed. When it was all over they were convicted on 11 counts of animal cruelty. When I asked an aquaintence that is very well versed in animal law in our state as to why there were only 11 convictions she told me that in all likelyhood it was because the sherriff's office had found 11 bodies. My point to all this being that animal neglect and cruelty is extremely hard to prove under the laws of most states.


    Bookmark   November 12, 2006 at 3:47PM
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I think if they do, it shouldn't be notified by the owner, they should do it in private, police come to the house and its done, that way the owners will not know anything.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2008 at 5:14PM
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