Animal Abuse

Animal abuse is an important social issue affecting animals, families, and communities. Animal abuse includes physical abuse (non-accidental injury), sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, and staging animal fights. Physical abuse includes the infliction of injuries or causing unnecessary pain, including inappropriate methods of training. Sexual abuse includes any sexual conduct with animals, which may or may not result in physical injury to the animal.  Emotional abuse may include repeated or sustained ‘mental violence’ including withholding social interactions. Neglect is the failure to provide adequate levels of food, water, shelter, and veterinary care to animals causing poor physical condition. Veterinarians are likely to encounter some form of animal abuse during their career. Whether providing expert advice to the local humane authorities, visiting neglected farm animals, or treating an animal victim of violence, veterinarians are on the front lines of dealing with abuse.

Federal and provincial legislation affords animals protection from abuse, but veterinarians are sometimes concerned about disclosing information to humane authorities due to concerns regarding client confidentiality and personal liability. However, recognizing and reporting abuse is important, not only because veterinarians are charged with the welfare of animals, but also due to the link between animal abuse and human violence. Veterinarians suspicious of animal abuse need to understand how to recognize the signs of abuse and document these cases. Increasingly, veterinarians are asked to serve as expert witnesses and to assist in establishing forensic evidence.

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association recognizes the vital role that veterinarians play in protecting animals and in creating safe and humane communities. The CVMA intends this website to serve as a helpful resource for veterinary practitioners faced with animal abuse. The CVMA has also created a two page poster “Animal Abuse – What Veterinarians Can Do.”. This includes the CVMA position statement, which recognizes that veterinarians are in a position to observe occasions of animal abuse and have a moral obligation to report suspected cases.