While most animals are treated well by their owners, unfortunately veterinarians may encounter animal abuse or neglect in their practices. This section of the AVMA website has been created by the Animal Welfare Division with the assistance of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) to facilitate veterinarians' access to resources to help them develop protocols and response plans for handling cases of suspected animal abuse. Our first informational feature (see left) is a summary of the legal obligations and immunities of veterinarians when reporting cases of suspected animal abuse in practice. Please bookmark this page as additional resources will be posted as they become available.
"Every veterinarian has an obligation to protect the health and welfare of animals. Therefore, the AVMA considers it the responsibility of every veterinarian to report animal abuse to appropriate authorities, even when such reporting is not mandated by law or local ordinance. Such reporting is for the benefit of the animals, but there are often implications for people, as well."
Dr. Ron DeHaven, CEO, AVMA
The reporting obligations of veterinarians
Do I Have to Report Suspected Animal Abuse?
It is important that veterinarians be familiar with the concepts of animal abuse and neglect, and how these are defined under any law or ordinance that applies to their practice.
You may be legally mandated to report suspected cases of abuse and neglect or animal fighting to an appropriate authority. The AVMA has collected basic information about Abuse Reporting Requirements by State. Please be aware that statutes may change and you should consult the most recent version at your state's legislative website and review your state's veterinary practice act.
The AVMA considers it the responsibility of the veterinarian to report suspected cases of animal abuse when an educational approach is inappropriate. (see policy: Animal Abuse and Animal Neglect). Therefore, it is important to be familiar with the animal abuse laws that apply in your jurisdiction to know which actions may be considered criminal.
"The veterinary oath commits members of the profession to protect animal health and welfare as well as promote public health. Substantial research documents the link between animal abuse and other forms of violent human behavior. As trained health care providers who treat animals and come into frequent contact with the public, veterinarians have a unique role to play to protect both from disease and harm. To fulfill their ethical, professional and societal obligations, veterinarians must become better educated about animal abuse and management options, ranging from client education to reporting to local authorities."
Dr. Lila Miller, Veterinary Advisor, ASPCA
What to do to prepare your practice to deal with suspected cases of abuse:
What Do I Need to Know about Animal Abuse?
It is important to develop a protocol for responding to suspected abuse cases prior to encountering them in practice. The whitepaper shown below provides some information on what to consider and how to develop this protocol.