CVMA | Human Victims of Violence

Human Victims of Violence

Statistics show that most veterinarians will encounter incidences of animal abuse at some point in their careers. Remember that when abuse and/or neglect are identified, it is rarely isolated to one family member. (See The Link). It is imperative to be prepared to assess and respond to both human and animal cruelty.

Once abuse and/or neglect are suspected, intervention is critical to breaking the cycle of violence for these victims. Your role is to make the report to the appropriate agency – either the humane society or social services. It is their job to further investigate the concern. If cross-reporting is not mandated, conduct a phone consult with the proper agency and seek advice as to how to proceed further.

Key points

  • Discuss with your staff signs of potential abuse/neglect in children and victims of spousal or elder abuse (below).
  • Learn in advance the reporting requirements for your jurisdiction and keep on hand a list of such agencies and their phone numbers (i.e. child protection and the humane society).
  • Display pamphlets of various community agencies (women’s shelter, social services) for your clients’ information. (Some clients will take material with them, rather than disclose concerns while in your office.) Place some pamphlets in the washroom, so that clients may have private access to them.

Signs of potential child abuse or neglect

  1. Indicators that may be observed in children
    • Poor hygiene, inadequate clothing, malnourishment
    • Chronic illness and/or fatigue
    • Lack of medical and/or dental care
    • Behaviour ranging from whining, clinging and/or anxiety toward caregiver to total withdrawal
    • Out of control and/or deviant behaviour
    • Fear and distrust of their caregiver
    • Threats and/or physical harm toward their pets
    • Skin abrasions or other injuries
    • Depression and/or suicidal tendency
    • Bedwetting
    • Fire setting
    • Lack of appropriate adult supervision
    • Isolated and denied attention from others

  2. Indicators that may be observed on the part of the caregiver
    • Ignoring and/or rejection of child
    • Unresponsive to child’s needs
    • Leaves the child unattended
    • Chronic fatigue
    • Chaotic lifestyle and/or home
    • Unsafe living conditions
    • Drug or alcohol addiction
    • Mental illness
    • Poor choice of babysitters
    • Unable to provide basic needs
    • Poor coping skills
    • Irritability, aggressive outbursts, threatening behaviour
    • Unpredictable behavior
    • Belief in excessive corporal punishment

  3. Indicators that may be observed in victims of spousal or elder abuse
    • Overt injuries evident
    • Depressed and/or suicidal
    • Fearful of partner/abuser
    • Defends partner’s / abuser’s inappropriate behaviours
    • Economic deprivation
    • Withdrawn
    • Chronic exhaustion
    • Threats and/or physical harm toward their pet