CVMA | Documents | Animal Abuse – Position Statement

Animal Abuse – Position Statement

July 29, 2011


The CVMA recognizes that veterinarians are in a position to observe occasions of animal abuse and have a moral obligation to report suspected cases. With the knowledge of the recognized link between abuse in animals and abuse in people, the importance of veterinarians’ moral obligation to report cases increases.  In return, society has an obligation to support those veterinarians who report in good faith, using their professional judgment.
CVMA recognizes that moral obligation is not legal obligation. Any legal obligation to report abuse, or provision of immunity from prosecution for veterinarians, lies within the jurisdiction of the provinces.
  1. Animal abuse includes physical abuse (non-accidental injury), sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, and staging animal fights. Animal hoarding is neglect on a large scale (1).
  2. Veterinarians are often the first professionals to see an abused animal. Suspected animal abuse should be reported to the appropriate authority. Some provinces (e.g., Manitoba, Ontario, and Nova Scotia) require veterinarians to report instances of animal abuse, and provide immunity from liability for such reporting in good faith (2,3,4). Veterinarians should verify with their provincial VMA the requirements in their province. The CVMA encourages all provincial VMAs to work with their provincial governments to develop legislation to require veterinarians to report animal abuse, and to provide immunity to those who do so using their professional judgment and in good faith.
  3. More than the animal may be at risk as studies have documented a link between the abuse of animals and the abuse of people, especially family members (5-10). Veterinarians may be able to play an important role in breaking the cycle of family violence by reporting suspected animal abuse.  As well as reporting animal abuse, veterinarians should report to the appropriate authority, information they may obtain about the abuse of a child. In all jurisdictions except Newfoundland and Labrador, anyone who has reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is in need of protection is legally required to report the information to the appropriate authorities. The CVMA encourages cross-reporting between child protection and animal protection agencies.
  4. Veterinary schools are encouraged to discuss animal abuse, and the reporting thereof in their curricula, so that graduating veterinarians are better able to recognize the signs of abuse and know the appropriate steps to take in documenting and reporting it. Veterinarians are encouraged to review the CVMA web site for more information about reporting and documenting animal abuse (11).


  1. Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium:
  2. Manitoba Animal Care Act. Last consulted Feb 16, 2011.
  3. Nova Scotia Animal Protection Act. Last consulted Feb 16, 2011.
  4. Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Last consulted Feb 16, 2011.
  5. Ascione FR. Battered women’s reports of their partners’ and their children’s cruelty to animals. In: Lockwood R, Ascione FR, editors. Cruelty to animals and interpersonal violence. Purdue University Press, West Lafayette, 1998:290-304.
  6. Becker F, French L. Making the links: child abuse, animal cruelty, and domestic violence. Child Abuse Review 2004;13:399-414.
  7. DeViney E, Dickert J, Lockwood R. The care of pets within child abusing families. In: Lockwood R, Ascione FR, editors. Cruelty to animals and interpersonal violence. Purdue University Press, West Lafayette, 1998:305-313.
  8. Faver CA, Strand EB. Domestic violence and animal cruelty: untangling the web of abuse. J Social Work Ed 2003;39 (2):237-253.
  9. Jorgenson S, Maloney L. Animal abuse and the victims of domestic violence. In: Ascione FR, Arkow P, editors. Child abuse, domestic violence, and animal abuse. Purdue Research Foundation, West Lafayette, 1999: 143-158.
  10. Miller C. Childhood animal cruelty and interpersonal violence. Clin Psych Rev 2001;21(5):735-749.
  11. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. Last consulted Feb. 16, 2011.

(Revised July 2011)