Owner hugging her dog

Safer Together®

How veterinary professionals can recognize and report cruelty

You can also help pets impacted by domestic violence

Veterinary professionals play a crucial role in not only treating animals — companion, horses and livestock — but also in recognizing the signs of animal cruelty. Being aware of the connection between animal cruelty and domestic violence means veterinarians may be more likely to recognize and report abuse and, ultimately, provide a lifeline for animals impacted by cruelty and situations where there is co-occurring domestic violence.

Veterinarians should follow state and local guidelines when reporting animal cruelty, abuse or neglect. While reporting abuse against a pet isn’t yet mandatory on a national level, as a veterinarian, you may practice in a state where you are required to report any suspected abuse or cruelty and are supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).

Beyond required reporting, if you suspect an animal has been abused or experienced extreme neglect, the most important thing you can do is to provide quality, compassionate care without judgment. Be sure to conduct a thorough examination and carefully evaluate and document any injuries, and follow up with your client as normal once the visit is over to ensure proper ongoing care.

There are other ways you can get involved in helping people and pets escape domestic violence:

    Owner playing with his dog on playground
  • Pursue continuing education courses that build capability in identifying and responding to suspected animal abuse.
  • Provide voluntary veterinary services, discounts, boarding or medical assistance to pet foster care programs or domestic violence shelters that accept or assist pets. Help shelters that are considering adding pet kennel facilities with planning, design and program implementation.
  • Display literature in your clinic from local domestic violence organizations.

Resources for veterinarians

Situations in which abuse is suspected can be difficult to navigate. These resources from the AVMA and the National Link Coalition provide insights, tips and legal obligations for veterinarians dealing with pets that may be experiencing violence at home.

State regulations regarding reporting animal abuse 

State cross-reporting requirements 

How to respond to clients when domestic violence is suspected 

What to do as a practice  when you encounter clients experiencing domestic violence

Guidance has been published for veterinarians in Minnesota,  Massachusetts,  and Oklahoma,  on recognition and response to suspected animal abuse and protocols for addressing clients in these challenging situations.