Increasing Awareness in Your Practice
Veterinarians are well-trained in proper animal husbandry and well-equipped to recognize substandard care; yet many are reluctant to intervene when abuse is suspected, for a variety of reasons. One study suggests that veterinarians do not feel they have adequate training regarding animal abuse.
Below are some suggestions that can be implemented in your practice to improve awareness of animal abuse and assist in managing possible abuse cases.
Educate all staff members about recognizing animal abuse.
Clients may confide details of animal care, history, or family relationships to non-veterinary staff including AHTs and receptionist. It is very important that all members of a veterinary practice are aware of the warning signs of abuse and are able to communicate their concerns with the veterinary staff.
Use the CVMA poster "Animal Abuse: What Veterinarians Can Do" as a starting point for discussion, and a place to post important phone numbers.
Establish a written hospital policy regarding reporting animal abuse.
A written policy will assist all members of the veterinary practice in identifying their responsibilities in recognizing and reporting animal abuse. A reporting structure may be necessary in larger hospitals. The hospital administrator or senior AHT maybe tasked with ensuring that appropriate forms used to document abuse cases are available and recorded appropriately. The Atlantic Veterinary College policy may serve as a helpful template.
Establish a clinic policy and follow up strategy for borderline cases.
Borderline cases of animal abuse may include neglect cases that may be remedied by client education rather than reporting to the human authorities, or suspicious cases of non-accidental injury or illness. In these cases, it is important that there is a designated staff member to ensure that the client in question follows veterinary recommendations regarding further care, rechecks, etc. This may be particularly important in emergency or referral practices.