Veterinarians And The ‘Duty To Report’

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Our fight for the horses would be quickly accomplished if there were more veterinarians, farriers and trainers who would stand their ground and speak out.  We need a united front of professionals whose clients are the horses.

Very good analysis from Faunalytics – please also read  the study – Breaking the Silence – the Veterinarian’s Duty to Report by Martine Lachance, Professor,  Department of Juridical Sciences, Université de Québec à Montreal.

“When it comes to the safety and security of companion animals, veterinarians obviously play a crucial role. They are who we turn to when our companions are sick or otherwise need medical attention. In some cases, veterinarians may notice things about the human-animal relationship that is troubling or indicates abuse. While it is common to say that animals can’t speak for themselves, veterinarians may be able to identify abuse or neglect over the course of regular checkups or other procedures. Medical, legal, and other such professions often have a code of professional confidentiality in place that is meant to foster trust with patients, but in the case of veterinarians, this code of confidentiality may be more of a curse than a blessing.

This paper examines the code of professional confidentiality in the veterinary field and discusses how that code may not apply in the same ways because veterinarians have dual clients — the animals and their guardians. This tension between animal welfare and professional secrecy is largely due to the need to “minimize needless animal suffering” and to “provide full legal protection to the client-practitioner relationship,” respectively. What happens, though, if veterinarians notice something where the client-practitioner relationship needs to be set aside to protect the interests of the animal? In this sense, veterinarians are often the first line of defence for animals as they are the first people who are in a position to detect abuse. And so, we arrive at two important questions:

“Is a practitioner morally justified to report suspected cases of abuse to the appropriate authorities? If so, is the professional legally authorized to report the case even when bound by the rule of professional secrecy?”

While the answers may seem simple to animal advocates, the implications for veterinary practice could be profound. The right to professional secrecy is considered by many to be a “fundamental right” and an essential component of the medical legal framework. Still, this does not mean there aren’t exceptions, even in the human world. The field of pediatrics has long recognized the importance of putting in provisions where a doctor has a “duty to report” in situations of neglect or abuse of a child.

Some states in the U.S. (North Carolina, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, New York, and Oregon) have laws stating that veterinarians have a “moral obligation” (which is not the same as a legal obligation) to “report suspicious cases of mistreatment” of animals. In Canada, only Ontario has provisions for this, though they are also voluntary. With mandatory reporting, it may “appear to resolve the ethical dilemma of the practitioner,” but enforcing this mandatory reporting is also difficult. Practitioners may feel that they have a duty of conscience to report, but not a legal duty.

What’s more, the failure to report abuse often “does not expose professionals to any disciplinary consequences: any resulting professional penalties, being neither physical nor monetary, do not seem to carry the same weight as legal penalties.” While the legal duty to report abuse is currently in place in eight U.S. states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and West Virginia) and two provinces (Newfoundland/Labrador and Quebec), “the actual exercise of the duty to report occurs almost as infrequently in the United States as the actual exercise of the right to report under voluntary disclosure.”

Where does this leave companion animal advocates and, more importantly, companion animals? The author doesn’t have solutions, per se, as creating provisions for the duty to report and enforcing those provisions are both very difficult legal tasks. The author does put forth the hope that codes of silence around reporting animal abuse can be broken down and that, as societies around the world become more attuned to the suffering of animals, we will see increasing importance placed on the duty to report. Professional veterinary associations, the author notes, may have an especially important role to play, to “help practitioners gain a better understanding of animal cruelty, the legal rules of disclosure, and the most appropriate response in such cases.” For animal advocates, this article gives a great deal to think about how we might also do our part in raising awareness of these issues.”

Progressive Pet Simulation-Based Veterinary Learning Paradigms Expand

Pferde-Gyn-Simulator
Researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna have shown that simulator-based training can be extremely efficient to achieve learning outcomes in veterinary gynaecology.

What began with the world’s first robotic rescue dog for medical training is evolving into a new teaching paradigm in veterinary medicine.  Simulator-based training of students at Vetmeduni Vienna has been part of the curriculum since 2012. The Skills Lab is a simulated veterinary practice in which students have the chance to train in a variety of veterinary interventions in a near-realistic setup on animal dummies.

Simulations like this have been used to teach human doctors for decades. The idea is to bridge pre-clinical learning and actual clinical experience, letting students practice applying what they’ve learned in a safe setting before the stakes get high.

A study of the effectiveness of the simulator was based on recordings of the students’ heart rate and salivary cortisol concentration during the training sessions and tests. The results of that work were published recently in the scientific journal, Reproduction in Domestic Animals.

The results from these studies are encouraging and progressive,  and we hope that the curriculum will be adopted by other institutions.

Another topic we hope will be covered more progressively with veterinary students is the issue of horse slaughter.  Far too often we hear from veterinarians who are unfamiliar with food safety standards,  the inhumanity of transport,  and drug prohibitions in horses sent to slaughter.  Instead,  many equine veterinarians often let their clients’ opinion and prejudice determine whether they take a public stance on slaughter.  Respect and integrity shape the public perception of veterinarians – please know that in Canada,  64% of Canadians polled are opposed to horse slaughter.

Veterinary Viewpoints: Twelve Days Of Christmas For Your Horse

 

happy holidays snow globeWritten

On the first day of Christmas, give your horse your attention. Whether it is a good brushing or just a scratch in the ‘oh so favorite’ spot, your beloved friend will appreciate your time.

On the second day of Christmas, give your horse a safe barn and pasture. Check electrical wiring in the barn. Look for loose boards, nails and screw eyes that can be a source of injury. Check fencing for loose boards, posts and wires. Make sure all feed storage containers are clean and secure. Clever horses and ponies can open and unlatch doors and containers. Check your fire extinguisher. While you’re at it, check the trailer and the hitch on your vehicle.

On the third day of Christmas, schedule a visit with your veterinarian for a health checkup and suggestions for maintaining the well-being of your horse. While you’re at it, visit your physician for your own health checkup to be sure the entire family is healthy.

On the fourth day of Christmas, make your horse a warm mash. Some folks like to use wheat bran; however, rolled oats or beet pulp can also make a good base. Carrots, molasses, apples and applesauce make flavorful additions.

On the fifth day of Christmas, talk with your veterinarian about your parasite control program. Your veterinarian may recommend a fecal exam to determine the parasite load in your horse.

On the sixth day of Christmas, visit an equine therapy organization. We already know that horses are good for people. Find out what you can do to support your local organizations.

On the seventh day of Christmas, create an emergency response plan for your horses. Because of their size and specific transportation needs, horses require extra consideration for disasters. Consider your options for identification such as a tattoo, microchip, brand or bridle tags. Visit the AAEP website for Emergency Disaster and Preparedness Guidelines.*

On the eighth day of Christmas, visit the University of Guelph website for a bio security assessment of your facility. This tool provides information on equine health, infectious disease and infectious disease control.

On the ninth day of Christmas, buy your horse a ball. Many horses will amuse themselves in the stall or pasture with a ball. Some horses prefer the ones with a handle.

On the 10th day of Christmas, get your horse a slow feeder for grain or hay. The slow feeder makes mealtime more stimulating. Slow feeding keeps the horse amused for longer periods of time and encourages healthy digestion. Many ideas are available on the Internet for homemade slow feeders.

On the 11th day of Christmas, wash that saddle pad or blanket. You may even need to replace the saddle pad or blanket. Remember the blanket or pad helps to protect the horse’s back, which is critical for their comfort.

On the 12th day of Christmas, go through your veterinary medicine cabinet and toss expired and contaminated medications. Using expired or contaminated medications can do more harm than good. If you like to keep a dose of pain relief on hand, check with your veterinarian for the best product for your needs.”

Veterinary Viewpoints is provided by the faculty of the OSU Veterinary Medical Hospital. Certified by the American Animal Hospital Association, the hospital is open to the public providing routine and specialized care for all species and 24-hour emergency care, 365 days a year.

CVEWC wishes to inform our readership that the AAEP mentioned in Dr. Geidt’s post,  does not  oppose horse slaughter. We suggest two good alternative Canadian sites for disaster preparedness are the Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team  and Pet Safe Coalition of Canada Society.

W5 Exposé Reveals Lack of Independent Scientific Wildlife Management Plan For Wild Horses

Robert Keith Spaith Sculpture
Breakaway bronze statue of wild horses by Robert Keith Spaith in Calgary International Airport terminal

In the first of a two part exposé by investigative journalists from W5,  it was revealed that Alberta’s previous Progressive Conservative government did not commission its own studies of wild horse populations,  preferring instead to take ranchers’ analysis at face-value.  When independent wildlife biologists and animal advocates sought to review that evidence through freedom-of-information requests, the government and ranchers’ association denied access.

In studies that have suggested that there is damage to grasslands,  these findings were observed in areas where access is shared by both horses and cattle,  which are being grazed in orders of magnitude over that of horses in Alberta.

From the W5 article “Born Free”:

“There are now, by the government’s admittedly limited count, around 700 left to roam free in the province, 200 fewer than this time last year. A tough winter and the occasional predator took most of them, while government-licensed trappers took 50. Some of those were sent to a no-kill auction in Innisfail. The government doesn’t know what happened to the rest, as it doesn’t track the horses’ well-being after they’re captured.

The capture and cull has been happening regularly in Alberta, almost every year as the number of wild horses fluctuates.

Ranchers, particularly in the Rocky Mountain foothills of Central Alberta, collect evidence they then turn over to the government, which they claim shows wild horses are over-eating the grazing grasslands needed for domesticated cattle. But the reports are not routinely released to the public……”

Letter: Canada Mired In A Graveyard Of Animal Ethics

Ken McLeod foal photo
Photo Credit: Ken McLeod

The following letter to the editor appeared in the online version of the Kelowna (British Columbia) Daily Courier on October 20th.  Letters such as these show that public awareness of the horse slaughter and food safety industries are being taken up on a mass scale….  Please read on and share.

“Industry without ethics, capitalism without conscience – is tortured flesh the flavour of our times?

The Canadian horse slaughter industry is an abomination.

Within its harrowing abyss exist: the theft of liberty, unpardonable anguish and the dismemberment of a noble icon.

Advocates in favour of this industry present the following arguments for its existence:

— Horses are meat.

— Slaughterhouses euthanize old, crippled and unwanted horses.

— Slaughter controls over population.

— The industry provides employment.

Different perceptions and the high ground we call morality oppose these arguments:

— Horses are not meat to do with as we please. Throughout history, beside the footprints of man are the hoofprints of the horse. A pony is a child’s dream, a horse an adult’s treasure. This industry, however, transforms treasures and dreams into nightmares of betrayal.

— Slaughterhouses do not humanely euthanize. They orchestrate terror and suffering. Over 90 per cent of their victims are young and healthy. Slaughter is not the answer to solve the aged, infirm, unwanted horse debate.

Rescue sanctuaries, veterans working with horses, responsible ownership, tourism co-ops, and ethical veterinarian care are a few viable solutions.

— The slaughter business perpetuates over-population and callous kill buyers and unscrupulous profit mongers love it.

— The industry does provide jobs, including: degrading kill-floor work and cash counting corporate accounting. However, we should use ingenuity to create jobs that save rather than ones that kill. The bottom line is this, an industry that is heartless and cruel, an industry without ethics, should be no industry at all.

Advocates for slaughter continue to define death at the slaughterhouses as humane euthanasia.

Rhetoric and covertness are cornerstones of their industry. The shipping of live draft horses to Japan so that their connoisseurs can enjoy freshly butchered horse sashimi is a national disgrace.

Transportation to, and imprisonment in, slaughterhouse corrals is an abusive, nefarious activity. And, the final stages of the process — kill chutes, stun boxes, captive bolts to the head and dismemberment (of, at times, live horses) far over-step boundaries of morality.

Our culture has never embraced the concept of horse meat for human consumption. We should not be part of the “Meat-Man’s Trade” that ships befouled flesh overseas. Our horse is not a commodity to be exploited. This intelligent beast helped First Nations people survive, stood beside — and died with — our soldiers on countless battlefields including the poppy-coated fields of Ypres and Flanders, transported pioneers westward, pulled our plows, helped build our railroads.

Horses have entertained us and joined us in recreational pursuits.

They are a beloved companion.

And, so often, they have provided hope and tranquillity to troubled souls. The horse is the single most influential animal to affect mankind.

There should be no place in our society for foreign-driven horse slaughter. Canadians need to stare this oppressive industry square in the face and declaim, “Not in our country.”

It is time to write federal politicians and demand action that terminates the atrocities, time to listen with our heart to the desperate call unspoken of our friend, the horse.

It is the horse slaughter industry not our ethics and our horses that should be in the graveyard.”

D. Fisher, Kelowna

Veterinary Students From Across Canada Visit Alberta To Observe Wild Horses

Photo Credit:  Sandy Bell
Photo Credit: Sandy Bell

“An important aspect of the course is to strive towards taking a leadership role as a veterinarian in the local community, in pulling together community experts required to best address the question or problem at hand and to work towards a solution that is acceptable to as many stakeholders as possible.”

Bob Henderson, president of WHOAS, says, “It’s a valuable experience for the students to be able to come out here and witness the program, and be able to observe the wild horses to get a better understanding of all the issues that surround them.”

Read more here……

New Video Footage Released Showing Live Shipment of Horses at Quarantine Station in Kagoshima, Japan

dyk_yycAs a follow up to our August post on the live draft horse shipments out of Calgary, Alberta, new footage of the Kagoshima quarantine station in Japan is now being released.

This footage was taken in March 2015. In the first segment we see video of horses on a feedlot, followed by footage of horses being unloaded from crates after the long flight to Japan. These crates are smaller than the average horse stall and designed for three (but loaded with up to 4 horses) which is contrary to Canada’s Health of Animals regulations.

Petition Atlas Air to discontinue live shipments

At the quarantine station, the horses are unloaded to the concrete, bunker-like quarantine station where they will stay for a few weeks before being slaughtered. In the background you can hear Atlas Air taking off, no doubt to return with another shipment of horses on their next flight from YYC.

CVEWC Supporter Dr. Judith Samson-French Nominated As Petplan’s Veterinarian-of-the-Year

We are very pleased to acknowledge CVEWC’s supporting Veterinarian Dr. Judith Samson-French, who has been nominated as Petplan Insurance’s 2016 Veterinarian of the Year!

In 2013, Dr. Samson-French was awarded by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association for her participation in programs designed to provide contraception, deworming, microchipping, and food for homeless and feral dogs. Dr. Samson-French created a first-of-its-kind program using contraceptive implants to break the reproductive cycle of the female dogs. The implants take a few minutes, they are painless when given with a local freezing, and they present no ill effects. Dr. Judith has also partnered with pet food suppliers to sell her specially designed promotional bookmarks as well as donate a portion of the sale of their dog food to her project.

In addition to her support for anti-slaughter initiatives for horses, she owns and operates Banded Peak Veterinary Hospital and has worked with both the Calgary Zoo and the Honolulu Zoo. Dr. Samson-French has invested several years of her career to pursuing medicine and surgery for ratites (flightless birds such as the kiwi/emu/rhea/ostrich) in North America and Europe, and has experience as an emergency veterinarian. Dr. Judith has even performed fieldwork on green iguanas in Costa Rica, and has included in her practice small ruminants, equine patients and the rehabilitation of sick and injured wildlife.

Congratulations to Dr. Judith – she is truly an overachiever when it comes to caring for animals!