Can a veterinarian recognize good and bad animal welfare? What should a practitioner do when presented with a case involving suspected animal abuse? What are the legal and professional obligations? What are the risks of taking or not taking action? And should veterinarians be compelled to report? These are some of the topics to be addressed in a continuing veterinary education online course, “Animal Law in Practice,” offered by Dr. Ian Robertson
2009 Animal Law In Practice
Animal Law in Practice – the things you MUST know
Your role, your risk, your legal liability
This is the first in a series of VetScholar modules on animals and the law adapted for veterinarians, animal welfare inspectors and other professionals with an interest in, or duty of care for, animals.
The increasing attention to issues of animal welfare and growth of animal law as a legal discipline means that now more than ever you’re not only expected to know and abide by the law as it applies to you, but you’re increasingly likely to have clients asking you questions via their lawyer if you don’t. Simply stating “in my opinion” or “I didn’t know” is not a guaranteed defence, and it’s infinitely preferable to avoid problems in the first place than to endure the stress, time and cost that comes with litigation.
So how do you deal with conflicts between your duty of care for an animal’s welfare and your client’s confidentiality or your own business interests? What should you do with cases of obvious or suspected animal abuse that might also be linked to suspected human abuse? What are your thoughts and your role in contemporary debates about the use of animals in farming, experimentation or entertainment? And importantly, what are your legal obligations and liabilities in each of these situation?
“Prevention is better than cure” is a rule with as much application to law as it does to veterinary medicine. This course will build your understanding of the principles and law that apply to you, giving practical guidance to help you navigate with confidence situations arising in practice, and to minimise your legal risks while doing so.
By the end of this module you will understand the foundational concepts of animal law which are vital to understanding principles of animal welfare, your obligations under the law, and how to best deal with welfare issues and associated legal risks facing you in your work or practice.
Ian is an experienced teacher who is not only a lawyer specialising in animal law but who is also a veterinarian with substantial clinical and business experience. As such, this course provides practical and realistic coverage of what you as a professional need to know about animals and the law, ensuring you are informed for your own confidence and well being, credible to your clients, and better able to manage situations and risk in practice relating to animal welfare and the law.
Feedback of previous students who have completed courses on “animals and the law” taught by Ian:
- I wanted to say how much I enjoyed the course, and how much I have learned. The course was such a good introduction into areas that can have such a big effect in my field − a light has been turned on. Thanks! Alison Ineson (Veterinarian)
- I was concerned this course would simply recite the Animal Welfare Act but this was not the case! The course was excellent. It explained the law very well and the information learnt was put in to practice immediately. Jane Taylor, (Animal Health Officer)
- One of the best courses I’ve done in 15 years of Animal Health work. Gill McGregor, (Enforcement Manager)
- An obvious professional in the field of animal law. The course was made even more interesting and relevant by his experience and insights from both veterinary medicine and law. Excellent. Phil Sidey (Lawyer)
Module 1: Animal Law In Practice19th October - 13th December
This module is a prerequisite to those that will follow and provides
the basis for understanding today’s law and attitudes regarding animals
including their legal classification as ‘special property’ and how this
affects your own obligations. This first module also gives you the
terminology and ‘language’ of animal law to help you distinguish, for
example, between the frequent and often erroneously used terms of
‘welfare’, ‘rights’ and ‘interests’.
We examine what the law says
you can, must, and must not do regarding animals; including your legal
“duty of care”. Then we explore some real-life situations in a series
of case studies in which ethical, professional, economic and social
opinions and conflicts arise. Can you recognise good and bad welfare?
What would YOU do when presented with a particular case involving
suspected animal abuse? What are your legal obligations? How do those
compare with your professional obligations? What are the risks of
taking action? Or not taking action? Are you protected if you do, or do
not, report your suspicion? And should you as a professional be
compelled to report? The answers may not be as clear cut as you might
Topic One: Foundational concepts of animals and the law
To understand why the law deals with animals as it does, whether you think it’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, you must understand the origins of legal attitudes regarding animals. Learn about the concept of ‘property’ and why animals are ‘special’, and distinguish between animal rights and animal welfare. This helps explain much of the law we have today regarding our interactions and obligations regarding animals, and provides the “oh that’s why” factor for understanding why humans can legally use animals as they do.
Topic Two: Understanding the Animal Welfare Act
Here we deal with laws that are relevant to you, not only because you are expected to abide by them, but also because most of your clients will expect you to know at least the essentials. You’ll learn how the law defines your “duty of care” in respect of animals. Who is subject to it, when does it apply, and how does the law ‘judge’ whether you’ve complied with your duty, or failed in it. These are crucial understandings that will give you confidence managing both your professional duties and your personal and business risks.
Topic Three: Animal abuse – making the ‘right’ choice
Here we apply what you’ve learnt in the first two topics to a series of ‘real life’ situations where ethical, professional, economic and social opinions and conflicts arise! How do your legal obligations compare with your ethical and professional obligations? Are these obligations the same? Does “client confidentiality” trump all other obligations on you? What are the risks of taking action? Or not taking action? What are the barriers to reporting cases of abuse, for example? And how do you protect those who report? Your obligations, risks, and choice may not be as clear cut as you might first think. The legal outcomes of your choice, however, could be significantly different!