Animal cruelty is an unfortunate, horrific reality involving innocent beings that are unable to speak up for themselves. Veterinary professionals have a moral, ethical and, in some states, legal obligation to be the voice for these victims.
Animal cruelty is a catchall statement for offenses that include neglect, abuse, abandonment, animal fighting and even practicing veterinary medicine without a license. State laws vary in whether animal cruelty is deemed a misdemeanor or a felony, and they even go so far as to detail which animals are included. For example, New York laws cover “every living creature except a human being,” while in Alaska, protected animals include vertebrates but not fish.
Several states have laws in place that address the issue of veterinarians reporting suspected animal cruelty and abuse. These include Arizona, which outlines a veterinarian’s duty to report suspected canine participants of dog fighting. Oregon makes it mandatory for veterinarians to report aggravated animal abuse. Additionally, Kansas requires veterinarians to report cruel or inhumane treatment, and failure to do so could result in disciplinary action.
Because laws vary from state to state, it’s vital that veterinarians review local and state animal cruelty laws.
A veterinarian’s role in animal cruelty cases is to be the medical expert and not the prosecutor, judge and jury. Thomas Skadron, DVM, owner of Skadron Animal Hospital in West St. Paul, Minn., and a Veterinary Hospitals Association board member, had a suspected cruelty case in which local law enforcement asked that he get involved.
“The dog that came in had a broken femur, and we donated the fracture repair via intramedullary pin as opposed to amputation or euthanasia,” he said. “In this case, it meant the difference between being treated and not being treated.”
This article original published on April 20, 2016 in Veterinary Practice News. To read the full article, click here.