Animal abuse


Ratification Date: 30 Nov 2013


Veterinarians should report suspected animal abuse to the relevant authorities. Veterinarians should not be required by law to report instances of suspected animal abuse as this may discourage owners from seeking essential treatment for their injured animals.


Cruelty to animals is an offence in all jurisdictions.

The ethical obligation to report abuse is made not only for the animal's welfare but because of the well-researched connection between animal and child abuse and domestic violence and sociopathic tendencies. It has been demonstrated that there is a complex interrelationship between animal and child cruelty and a correlation between animal harm and other forms of psycho-social distress.

Veterinarians because of their training and expertise are uniquely placed to identify cases of animal abuse.


The first priority of veterinarians attending these animals should be the welfare of the animal. The duty of care the veterinarian has for the patient should also extend beyond the immediate injury and include prevention of further abuse. This may include veterinarians seizing animals if allowed to do so under animal cruelty legislation. The relevant authorities should be contacted so that they deal with the suspected perpetrator directly to protect the animal and the veterinarian.

Protection of the personal safety of the reporting veterinarian and veterinary staff is important as animal abusers could pose a danger to them.

Other recommendations

Legislation should be developed to give statutory protection against litigation and other reprisals towards veterinarians who report animal abuse.

The profession and community should be educated in recognising cases of potential animal abuse and its relevance to violence against people.

Other relevant policies and position statements:

Philosophy on animal welfare and the veterinarian


Ascione FR (1998). Battered women’s reports of their partners’ and their children’s cruelty to animals. Journal of Emotional Abuse 1(1):119–133.

Ascione FR (1999). The abuse of animals and human interpersonal violence: making the connection. In: Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, and Animal Abuse: Linking the Circles of Compassion for Prevention and Intervention, Ascione FR and Arkow P (eds), Purdue University Press, West Lafayette, Indiana, 50–61.

Ascione FR (2000). What veterinarians need to know about the link between animal abuse and interpersonal violence. In: Proceedings of the 137th Annual Meeting of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Salt Lake City, Utah, 25 July 2000 (CD–ROM records #316–317).

Ascione FR (2001). Animal abuse and youth violence, Juvenile Justice Bulletin. http://www.ncjrs.gov/html/ojjdp/jjbul2001_9_2/contents.html (Accessed 19 December 2018)

Ascione FR and Barnard S (1998). The link between animal abuse and violence to humans: why veterinarians should care. In: Recognizing and Reporting Animal Abuse: A Veterinarian’s Guide, Olson P (ed), American Humane Association Englewood, Colorado, 4–10.

Tiplady CM, Walsh DB and Philips CJC (2012) Intimate partner violence and companion animal welfare. Australian Veterinary Journal Vol 90, No 1-2 Jan/Feb 2012.

Williams, V.M.,Dale, A.R., Clarke, N & Garrett, N.K. (2008) Animal abuse and family violence: survey on the recognition of animal abuse by veterinarians in New Zealand and their understanding of the correlation between animal abuse and human violence. New Zealand Veterinary Journal, 21-28

Green, P.C. & Gullone, E. (2005) Knowledge and attitudes of Australian veterinarians to animal abuse and human interpersonal violence. Australian Veterinary Journal, 83, 619-625

Merck, M. (2007), Veterinary Forensics: Animal Cruelty Investigations, Blackwell Publishing.

Hackett, S & Uprichard, E 2007, 'Animal Abuse and Child Maltreatment: a review of the literature and findings from a UK study', NSPCC report, <www.nspcc.org.uk/inform>

Date of ratification by AVA Board: December 2013.