The Forgotten Partner in Responding to Animal Abuse: The Veterinarian

The Forgotten Partner in Responding to Animal Abuse: The Veterinarian
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2022-05-03
Unit 1Presentation Materials: The Forgotten Partner
Unit 2Transcript: The Forgotten Partner
Unit 3Workbook: The Forgotten Partner
Unit 4Recording: The Forgotten Partner

Professionals working in the human medical field are legally mandated to report suspected incidents of domestic, child, or elder abuse. Understanding the concept of the Link – how forms of family violence tend to coexist – veterinary practitioners can potentially play a critical role in averting not only animal cruelty, but also domestic violence, child maltreatment, and elder abuse should they be mandated or permitted to report suspected animal cruelty to authorities.

This webinar’s instructor is Phil Arkow, the coordinator of the National LINK Coalition. Phil is an internationally acclaimed lecturer, author, and educator and also co-founded the National Link Coalition, the National Animal Control Association, and the Colorado and New Jersey Humane Federations.

Specifics of this comprehensive discussion include:

  • The importance of multidisciplinary collaborations in effectively preventing and responding to animal abuse and other forms of family violence.
  • An overview of the National Link Coalition – its membership, mission, and areas of focus.
  • What the Link is and how silos deter the progress to protect all vulnerable members of society.
  • Mandatory reporting of suspected animal abuse and neglect legislation across the US.
  • The veterinary practitioners’ central role in addressing the Link as they can see various manifestations of family violence in their work.
  • A glimpse into the different types of animal-human violence links.
  • The basic rationale of reporting for veterinarians.
  • The veterinarian’s dilemma and common concerns when it comes to reporting suspected abuse incidents and how these can be overcome and resolved through:
    • Legislation to make veterinary practitioners mandated reporters.
    • Training and resources on skills required to recognize potential abuse, who to report to, and the reporting process.
    • Education on responsibilities, confidentiality issues, and the potential consequences of ignoring the issue for both animals and humans.
    • Enacting policies and protocols for the reporting process to ensure their safety.
  • The scope and limit of the term animal cruelty, and the nature of animal cruelty cases which tends to contribute to these not being resolved effectively.
  • The FBI-determined primary typologies of animal cruelty, its characteristics, and the dynamics that tend to be at play within each typology.
  • Guidelines for veterinary practitioners on recognizing and responding to animal cruelty.
    • The common presentations one may see and findings that suggest non-accidental injury.
    • Primary considerations in ensuring the safety of everyone and timely treatment of the animals.
    • Understanding that animal cruelty is not a medical determination to be done by the veterinary practitioner, but a legal one through the justice system.
    • Communicating to the client the purpose of reporting and delivering opinions clearly.
    • Having a support person or witness present to corroborate findings and opinions.
    • Practicing awareness that animal abuse does not occur in a vacuum by unpacking events that led to the animal’s current state, and looking out for other potential victims.
  • Pointers for comprehensive documentation that includes:
    • The person that brought the animal, their account of what happened, and their demeanor.
    • Noting and photographing observable details, injuries, and behavior of the animal.
    • Providing detailed examination and diagnostic findings, noting evidence of chronic conditions and repeated injuries, and documenting treatment plans and medical recommendations.
    • Saving potentially valuable physical evidence and all forms of correspondence with the client.
  • Reporting guidance including a flow chart to determine whether reporting is necessary, common situations where reporting is warranted, and red flags that raise suspicion and the need for reporting.
  • Factors to take into account when reporting in terms of legislation familiarity, internal protocols, conducting examinations, treating and monitoring of conditions, evidence collection, documentation and preservation, and documentation of findings.
  • What veterinary practitioners must consider if the case progresses, and are required to testify in court.
  • Proactive and preventative efforts through awareness campaigns and interagency partnerships to better address animal cruelty and the Link.
  • How a veterinary social worker can help veterinary practitioners better navigate animal cruelty reporting, investigation, and prosecution.
  • Resources were provided on recognizing, responding and reporting animal cruelty and creating safe zones for victims.
  • The crucial roles (3Rs) of veterinary practitioners in animal cruelty.
  • The concept of One Health which highlights the interrelatedness of the outcomes of animals, humans, and the environment.

Questions from the webinar attendees are about:

  • Arriving at a diagnosis of non-accidental injury as a team effort.
  • Anonymous reports of animal abuse.
  • Dog racing as a form of abuse.
  • Protocols on the process of providing copies of veterinary records to investigators.
  • Evidence relating reporting abuse to vet license complaints and losing clients.
  • Standard of care for animals and emotional abuse in animals.



Other Webinars with this Speaker:


Or, click here to register and view other Animal Welfare webinars and recordings on the JCH website. 


Resources and Handouts



Audience Comments

  • “Thank you, Phil Arkow, for all that you do to help animals (and people). I have such admiration and appreciation for your work. Great presentation!” — Jen
  • “You can never have too many webinars on ‘how to build an animal abuse case’. Trust me, step-by-step instructions are needed.” — Jill
  • “I think the tips for veterinarians were very helpful, especially the conversation about an owner being hesitant to euthanize and how that might be something to refer to animal control if pain cannot be managed.” — Jamie
  • “Explaining all the inaccuracies that vets use to say why they do not want to be involved in these cases – explaining that it is not the type of client you want and it is the right thing to do to report this AND that the confidentiality laws can be overridden for the safety of the victims. good webinar, thank you!” — Kim
  • “I am working on a presentation about the link between domestic violence and animal abuse, this information will be a large part of my presentation. Thank you so much for sharing.” — Karen
  • “Excellent webinar… Excellent data.” — Robert
  • “Too much info to fully absorb in so short a time period, but on a scale of 10, this was definitely a 100. I will be sharing it with my Vet. Thank you for a most outstanding presentation.” — Marie Louise





This webinar has been certified by the National Animal Care & Control Association and is approved for 1 Continuing Education Unit. Please refer to your NACA membership portal for current CEU submission process. Current NACA Members who attend the live presentation or watch the recording will be able to download a jointly issued attendance certificate that includes the National Animal Care & Control Association logo. Visit the NACA training page for a complete list of future trainings.



The Best Friends Network is comprised of thousands of public and private shelters, rescue groups, spay/neuter organizations and other animal welfare organizations in all 50 states. We are a coalition committed to saving the lives of dogs and cats through collaboration, information-sharing and implementation of proven lifesaving strategies. Our partners support each other and inspire their own communities to increase lifesaving across the country. Visit for more information and resources.



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