HSVMA Survey Reveals Strong Support for Mandatory Veterinary Reporting of Animal Cruelty
Majority of Respondents Have Seen Signs of Suspected Cruelty in Practice

April 22, 2015

Approximately 85 percent of the respondents to a recent HSVMA survey said they support requiring veterinarians to report suspected cases of animal cruelty. The survey, which was completed by more than 400 veterinary professionals nationwide, also found that nearly 80 percent of the respondents had been presented with at least one case of suspected animal cruelty during their career, and that more than a quarter of the respondents were presented with suspected cases of cruelty as many as 2-3 times per year.

“The results of this survey reveal how critical an issue this is for the veterinary profession,” said Dr. Susan Krebsbach, the HSVMA lead advisor on the project. “Veterinarians obviously want to do the right thing when they suspect animal cruelty is occurring, but they also are asking for the tools to help them report appropriately and without putting themselves or their practices at risk for doing so.”

Veterinarians are already legally required to report suspected cases of animal cruelty in 15 states, with Massachusetts becoming the most recent to enact such a law last year. Meanwhile, veterinarians are currently provided immunity for reporting in at least 27 states, according to data compiled by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (Veterinarian Reporting / Immunity Chart courtesy of Animal Legal Defense Fund).

There are numerous resources and training opportunities available for veterinary professionals in the area of animal abuse recognition and reporting (HSVMA maintains a list of available resources). However, respondents expressed a desire for more accessible CE training opportunities and nearly 85 percent felt that training on this subject should be offered during veterinary school.

HSVMA is looking at addressing this issue legislatively in states where reporting is currently not required or where immunity is not provided, in collaboration with state VMAs. Approximately two-thirds of the respondents said they believed their state VMA should have a role in advocating for legislation that requires veterinary mandatory reporting.

When asked what their biggest concerns were with regard to reporting, veterinary professionals reported that they were afraid they would face a lawsuit or license defense from reporting (51%); falsely accuse someone of a crime (51%); afraid of repercussions such as losing a client or being defamed on social media (44%); won’t recognize the signs of animal cruelty (23%); and don’t have enough training (19%).

“Individual veterinarians are looking to the professional organizations to take a leadership role in this area and provide the legal backing, related immunity, and education and resources they need to protect their patients who are at risk of abuse,” said Dr. Krebsbach. “We need to give them the tools to do so.”

The HSVMA survey was distributed online during February and March. There were a total of 436 respondents including 220 veterinarians. Other respondents included veterinary technicians, veterinary students and veterinary technician students.