Webinar presenter Phil Arkow answered a number of your questions after his presentation, The Forgotten Partner in Responding to Animal Abuse: The Veterinarian. Here are just a few of his responses.
Audience Question: In the UK, they also try and find a reason to admit the animal to the hospital to allow time to contact the SPCA and also to care for the animal, but he also wanted to share that the other thing we always teach is that the diagnosis of the non-accidental injury is a whole team diagnosis and not just a vet diagnosis made in the consult room. It is made with input from reception, nursing, and veterinary teams coming together to share their observations, conversations with clients, and feelings on examination. So, you kind of alluded to that. Wanted to give you an opportunity to comment on what Mr. Martin said.
Phil Arkow: I think that’s an absolutely fabulous idea. And it, again goes into this idea of it being a partnership. And also, these issues are so serious and so complex getting multiple opinions right from the get-go can be highly significant in terms of determining where to go next with it. You bet, I think it’s a great idea.
Audience Question: Can animal abuse reports be done anonymously?
Phil Arkow: They can be, but a law enforcement agency wants to be able to follow up and needs to know who to contact, and they need specifics. And it’s a crime, like any other crime. So, it’s one thing to say. There’s a burglary in progress at this address, and the cops can respond immediately. What if somebody says, this guy is always beating his dog, but we don’t have a specific time or specific place. By the time the cops get there, there may or may not be anything to see. And if they don’t know who to call to get additional information to investigate further, it’s not going to go anywhere. So, law enforcement or humane agencies need specifics, and admittedly, a lot of people are afraid to get involved. They don’t want their name released. But if they really care about the animals’ well-being, you’re going to have to go out on a limb and at least let the investigators know who made the report.
Audience Question: Is there any belief that racing dogs are being abused because they’re racing against their will?
Phil Arkow: We’re talking Greyhound racing? I would presume so yes. I just read today that the dog track in Dubuque, Iowa, is shutting down and another one is shutting down. And by the end of the year, they will only be two more greyhound racing tracks left in the United States. In Charleston and Wheeling, West Virginia. All the other ones, some 500 racetracks, I think it was, it said, have gone by the wayside because of the concerns for animal welfare in the way Greyhounds are raised and the training regimens, and then many of them are just euthanized after their racing days are done.
Audience Question: Should vets volunteer to give copies of vet medical records to investigators or wait until they get a subpoena for the medical records, so they don’t violate client privacy laws?
Phil Arkow: That’s going to vary state by state in terms of whether they can do it voluntarily or whether they need to get an official response. I would say check with your legal support staff at the State Veterinary Association and see what those particular procedures are. Anyway, be prepared to make them available.
Audience Question: Is there any evidence that reporting suspected abuse results in vet license complaints, which, of course, aren’t civil or criminal complaints and it requires a separate insurance to cover for? Are you seeing an increase in vet license complaints?
Phil Arkow: I haven’t heard of that happening. I mean, it is possible that there might be some isolated cases that I’m not aware of. But, again, in those states, where they are specifically given immunity from civil and criminal liability and administrative sanctions for making a good faith report, it shouldn’t be an issue.
Audience Question: Do vets have a higher likelihood of losing clients than physicians because people go where their medical insurance directs them to, whereas vet clients have more choices?
Phil Arkow: Again, we haven’t seen any evidence of veterinarians losing clients as a result of mandatory or permissive reporting. And, again, if it happens, the question I would ask is, is that the kind of client you want?
Audience Question: Besides food and shelter, what was the third characteristic that shows leaving a dog alone is not emotional abuse?
Phil Arkow: Basically, I think food, water, shelter, basic grooming, and basic veterinary care. That’s legally sufficient, okay. The fact that they’re left alone, maybe it’s an emotional issue for the animal, but it’s not a legal terminology, I don’t believe, in any state in this country, and only a handful around the world, in which emotional abuse is considered an illegal category. We have emotional abuse when it comes to domestic violence, elder abuse, and child abuse, but not with animals.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of The Forgotten Partner in Responding to Animal Abuse: The Veterinarian.