British Columbia’s Chief Veterinarian Clashes With College Of Veterinarians Over Reporting Of Animal Abuse

Originally Published August 9th in Abby News,  by Tyler Olsen

The College of Veterinarians of British Columbia send out a directive to their 8025748_web1_copy_jane-pritchard-gpsmembership in July, advising that veterinarians should only report animal abuse if they have “unequivocal evidence” of wrongdoing by clients.  B.C.’s Chief Veterinary Officer Jane Pritchard disagrees with this position.

“And she took the CVBC to task for emphasizing client confidentiality above reporting abuse in an email the organization sent to members in June.

That memo states that reporting a client “should be reserved for circumstances where there is clear and unequivocal evidence of an animal being in distress as a direct result of the actions of the veterinarian’s client. Threatening to report or reporting on circumstantial evidence will leave veterinarians open to criticism for breaching client trust and confidentiality … Veterinarians will best serve their patients when clients can rely on them to make patient treatment a priority, while simultaneously meeting client confidentiality obligations.”

The Prevention of Cruelty Act (PCA) states that veterinarians “must promptly report” what they know if they think a client is “likely” abusing an animal. The CVBC position, which cites the need for “unequivocal evidence,” would require a vet to know for certain that abuse is happening before reporting it to authorities.

In opposing the CVBC memo, Pritchard cited provincial law, an oath taken by vets to protect animal health and welfare, and several high-profile animal abuse cases in the Fraser Valley over the last year.

“The emphasis on protecting client confidentiality to defend not reporting animal cruelty seems to me to be less than professional within the context of our oath and the requirements of the PCA.”

Pritchard wrote that the “CVBC memo focused on the role for veterinarians to protect client confidentiality in face of possible animal abuse.”

She wrote: “In B.C. we have witnessed high-profile media coverage and public outrage on extreme acts of cruelty against farm animals in recent months and years. The public often questions what the role of the veterinarian is in these circumstances, and if we do not speak up, take an interest, ask questions and become engaged in this area, I fear we, as veterinarians, will be seen as irrelevant in protecting animal welfare. I feel that veterinarians need to remain relevant in animal welfare that we should actively continue to strive to promote animal health and welfare, relieve animal suffering.”

Thank you Dr. Pritchard!

The rest of the article can be read here.

 

The Veterinarian’s Role in Equine Abuse Investigations

By Alexandra Beckstett, The Horse Managing Editor

The following article is reproduced from “The Horse,”  January 19, 2017

How a veterinarian goes about examining and treating allegedly abused horses can mean the difference between a successful or unsuccessful case against the owner. He or she must know how to properly document all findings and avoid destroying evidence while still putting the horse’s welfare first.

Nicole Eller, DVM, a Minnesota-based field shelter veterinarian with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Field Investigations and Response team, described the veterinarian’s unique role in animal crime scene investigations during her presentation at the 2016 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 3-7 in Orlando, Florida.

First, she reviewed the basics of evidence identification, collection, and preservation. “Evidence is generally defined as anything that can demonstrate or disprove a fact in contention,” said Eller. In equine abuse investigations, this can include anything from photos of a horse’s injuries or body condition to the moldy hay in his feeder.

Veterinarians must view these cases through the lens of someone looking for and collecting evidence. As the equine expert, the veterinarian will recognize key pieces of evidence that other investigators might overlook.

Eller then described the four phases of processing an animal crime scene.

Phase 1: Document the condition of the facility or farm upon arrival

The area will most likely have already been secured by law enforcement and documented via photos and video by the time the veterinarian arrives on the scene.

Phase 2: Document each animal and its environment

The veterinarian will conduct what Eller called “critical triage” during the initial walk-through of the property.

“Critical triage is a rapid visual sorting of animals for treatment priority,” she said. “It’s done to identify animals in immediate need of medical care.”

The practitioner should classify horses needing immediate care as “red animals.” Eller said this might include horses with open fractures, seizures, hemorrhaging, etc.

“Document everything as fast as possible before treating, because the live animal is evidence, and treatment alters evidence,” she said.

After caring for the red animals, Eller said the veterinarian should perform a second walk-through and color-code the remaining animals as yellow (in need of treatment before transport), green (ready for transport), or blue (exhibiting signs of infectious disease).

“Given how horses are typically housed, if one has infectious disease, they may all have it,” said Eller. “But if a few are obviously infectious, you would want to handle them last and have an isolation area set up at the clinic or place where the horses are being transported.”

Once the horses have been documented and tended to, then it’s time to document their living conditions and environment. “Demonstrate how that environment may have directly affected the animal,” she said, including taking photographs or directing the person who is. Any dead horses, carcasses, or skeletal remains on the property must also be catalogued as physical evidence.

Once all horses have been removed from the property, the veterinarian should perform a more thorough documentation of the living space. Note the dimensions of each enclosure or shelter as well as how many horses shared each space, said Eller. Take mid-range and close-up photos of “any receptacles, presence or lack of good and water, quality of food and water, shelter and fence construction and possible hazards, feces, and urine,” she added.

Phase 3: Nonanimal evidence

Veterinarians also play an important role identifying nonanimal evidence. “This could include items such as medications, supplements, surgical supplies, emasculators, and caustic substances,” said Eller. “Some items of evidence may be overlooked by law enforcement officers who are not familiar with the particular crime type.”

Phase 4: Document the condition of the scene upon exit

This final phase involves a thorough physical exam and detailed photos of each horse. “Photos are a fundamental component of a forensic examination,” said Eller. She suggests treating the horse like a cube and getting photos of all six sides, with close-ups of any findings, such as lesions, abscesses, or wounds, and placing a forensic ruler next to these findings for measurement purposes.

And above all, never delete any photos—even the blurry or unintentional ones. “They will be found, and you will be questioned,” said Eller.

The veterinarian’s role in an animal abuse case doesn’t end after the crime scene has been documented, evidence collected, and horses treated. He or she must provide a final report on the facts of the case, known as a forensic veterinary statement. This will help the judge and jury understand the evidence. When putting together a forensic veterinary statement, write for a lay audience, and remain impartial, said Eller. It is not the veterinarian’s job to determine guilt or innocence, but to present the medical facts of the case.