Monday, 7 May 2012

Spotting the link between animal abuse and domestic abuse – can you?

An initiative has been launched in Scotland to help vets uncover and tackle domestic abuse where an animal is also being harmed. Research and clinical evidence increasingly suggests links between the abuse of children, vulnerable adults and animals and vets are being asked to join their human medicine counterparts in making the links and tackling abuse.

The launch of the Domestic Abuse Veterinary Initiative (DAVI), an initiative by Scottish charity Medics Against Violence (MAV), follows the success of a similar initiative with dentists.

According to the police it takes, on average, 35 previous incidents of abuse before a victim feels able to report it. To encourage those suffering domestic abuse to report, a range of strategies and support systems have been put in place which are endorsed and practised by many of the professionals the victim may come into contact with, including doctors and dentists and now veterinary surgeons too.

The Veterinary Defence Society (VDS) receives an average of 5 calls a month from vets asking for advice on suspected animal cruelty and abuse cases. Because of the vet-client relationship, members of the veterinary team are also in an ideal position to notice changes in someone’s appearance or behaviour. By expressing concern, vets could give an abused client the confidence to seek help.

The practice note will be supported by more detailed online guidance notes provided by the Links Group. The practice note folds out into an A2 poster which sets out four simple steps (AVDR) to help vets seize the “golden moment” to uncover abuse while acknowledging that the vet is not an expert in human abuse and limiting the vet’s further involvement.

Vets may follow a similar approach to the four steps named in the AVDR approach (which was developed by Dr Barbara Gerbert, University of California, for dentists):

- Asking the clients about abuse
- providing Validating messages acknowledging that violence is wrong and confirming the client’s worth
- Documenting history, presenting signs and disclosures in notes and if possible, with relevant images (for example, x rays or computer images or photographs)
- Referring victims to domestic abuse specialists in the community

The RCVS Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons covers animal abuse in the client confidentiality section (

Further information will shortly be available on the Veterinary Defence Society website

No comments:

Post a Comment