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The Veterinarian’s Role in Small Animal Cruelty Presented by Shirene Cece DVM Michigan Humane Society Detroit Center for Animal Care 7401 Chrysler Drive.

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Presentation on theme: "The Veterinarian’s Role in Small Animal Cruelty Presented by Shirene Cece DVM Michigan Humane Society Detroit Center for Animal Care 7401 Chrysler Drive."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Veterinarian’s Role in Small Animal Cruelty Presented by Shirene Cece DVM Michigan Humane Society Detroit Center for Animal Care 7401 Chrysler Drive Detroit, Michigan 48211

2 "Anyone who has accustomed himself to regard the life of any living creature as worthless is in danger of arriving also at the idea of worthless human lives." - Albert Schweitzer, Humanitarian

3 cru·el ˈkru əl/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[kroo-uh l] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation Pronunciation KeyShow Spelled Pronunciation Pronunciation KeyShow IPA Pronunciation –adjective, -er, -est. 1.willfully or knowingly causing pain or distress to others.

4 State Cruelty Laws Vary New York-” A person is guilty of aggravated cruelty to animals when with no justifiable purpose, he or she intentionally kill or intentionally causes serious physical injury to a companion animal with aggravated cruelty ( conduct which is intended to cause extreme physical pain or is carried out in an especially depraved or sadistic manner)

5 Michigan’s cruelty laws [A] … person having the charge or custody of an animal shall not do any of the following: (a) Fail to provide an animal with adequate care. (b) Cruelly drive, work, or beat an animal, or cause an animal to be cruelly driven, worked, or beaten. (c) Carry or cause to be carried in or upon a vehicle or otherwise any live animal having the feet or legs tied together…. (d) Carry or cause to be carried a live animal in or upon a vehicle or otherwise without providing a secure space, rack, car, crate, or cage….

6 Michigan’s Cruelty Laws (e) Abandon an animal or cause an animal to be abandoned … without making provisions for the animal’s adequate care…. (f) Willfully or negligently allow any animal … to suffer unnecessary neglect, torture, or pain. (g) Tether a dog unless the tether is at least 3 times the length of the dog as measured from the tip of its nose to the base of its tail and is attached to a harness or non-choke collar designed for tethering It is important for veterinarians to be familiar with their state laws

7 :// Voluntary reporting of cases Interactive map of cruelty cases Search for current cruelty cases which give an accused, outcome and location

8 Why worry about Cruelty? Views regarding animal cruelty are changing; people are becoming more award of cruelty through the media Some states have mandatory reporting It is the ethical duty of the veterinarian There is a link between animal cruelty and human violence

9 Animal Cruelty and human violence “Animal cruelty can be linked to the vast majority of serial killers, many habitual offenders, and most children and teens who kill” Joshua K. Marquis District Attorney (Oregon) Vice President NDAA

10 Examples of the link School shootings 1997-2001 MS,KY,AK,OR,GA,CA all these boys performed acts of cruelty on animals such as shooting dogs, burning cats, blowing up cows Boston Strangler killed 13 women, shot arrows into dogs and cats as a boy Ted Bundy killed 30 women, as a boy tortured animals

11 Examples of the link Jeffery Dahmer killed 17 people, as a boy he killed and impaled the heads of dogs and cats on sticks Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer Wichita KS, practiced killing animals before killing 10 people

12 Facts about Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence American Humane 71% of pet-owning women entering women’s shelters reported that their batterer had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control victims; 32% reported their children had hurt or killed animals

13 Abusers kill, harm, or threaten children’s pets to coerce them into sexual abuse or to force them to remain silent about abuse. Disturbed children kill or harm animals to emulate their parents’ conduct, to prevent the abuser from killing the pet, or to take out their aggressions on another victim.

14 Investigation of animal abuse is often the first point of social services intervention for a family in trouble

15 animal abusers were twice as likely to commit a violent offense such as assault or possession of a weapon SOURCES: Becker, K. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, July 2004;

16 Supervisory Special agent Allen Brantley of the FBI was quoted as saying “Animal cruelty …is not a harmless venting of emotion in a healthy individual; this is a warning sign…”

17 Animal Abuse and Human Violence Randall Lockwood Lecture given in 2001 at the World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress in Vancouver Landau (1999) surveyed the deans of 31 American and Canadian schools of veterinary medicine 97% agreed that veterinarians would encounter instances of intentional animal abuse

18 63% agreed that veterinary professionals would encounter cases of animal cruelty associated with family violence 17% of deans reported that students are explicitly made aware of policies on responding to suspected abuse The average veterinary curriculum spends only 8 minutes on the issue of animal cruelty and human violence Many veterinary students feel that the issue is inadequately addressed in their training

19 Sharpe(1999) survey of small animal practitioners estimated that the average practitioner saw 5.6 cases of animal abuse per 1,000 patients rural., urban or suburban Only 8% of respondents felt that they had received adequate training in general abuse

20 No widely agreed upon standard for identifying an injury or condition in a veterinary patient as being the result of intentional abuse or extreme neglect (this is changing as evidenced by the new textbooks and on veterinary forensics) Veterinarians seem reluctant to believe that a client that who intentionally harmed an animal would seek medical attention Fear for safety, losing a client, reputation in the community, possible litigation

21 Other Veterinary Concerns Does the veterinarian feel confident regarding his/her ability to recognize cruelty? Does the veterinarian feel confident to write medicals, and perform necropsies? Does the veterinarian feel confident to testify in court?

22 “One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it” Margaret Mead

23 Reporting Animal Cruelty Eleven states have laws that require veterinary reporting of cruelty and animal fighting Five states’ practice acts require that a veterinarian report animal cruelty and animal fighting Michigan has no law that requires reporting animal cruelty

24 Reporting Animal Cruelty AVMA states that the veterinarian has an ethical duty to report cases of animal cruelty and animal fighting Veterinarians in Michigan are protected from violating the confidentiality of a client if they report animal abuse or neglect by the confidentiality statute.

25 Roles that veterinarians may take in cruelty investigations Complainant Interpret lab test Answer the question “Is it cruelty?” Perform necropsy Perform examination and write medical Testify in court Visit locations Education

26 Veterinary roles con’t Examination of a crime scene Maintain the chain of custody of evidence Advise on the care of any survivors May provide medical care and housing for survivors Advise the investigator and prosecutor May do media interviews Provide euthanasia for severely injured victims

27 Complainant Private veterinarian that may suspect abuse May be a client that is involved May be neighbor May be a stranger

28 Reluctance to be complainant Affect on practice; possible negative media What about personal safety What time commitment is involved What financial commitment Concern about client confidentiality Is there immunity from liability? Is it easier just to look the other way?

29 Is it cruelty? Disease emaciation vs. starvation Breed of dog or large animal variations in body score Length of time of disease or trauma induced lesion



32 Animal risk factors Cats and dogs under 2 years of age Pit bulls and related breeds Male dogs more than females

33 Risk factors for NAI Munro and Thrusfield (2001) Vague explanation for injuries Unable to explain injuries Different stories, stories change Multiple fractures of different ages in the same animal Multiple animals in the household injured Repetitive history of accidents/deaths Personal awareness of violence in the household

34 British Vet Pharmaceutical firm Intervet UK (2003) Conditions suggestive of animal abuse Poor physical condition Absence of food Abandonment Collar too tight Lack of medical care Excessive matting Parasitic infestation Lack of sanitation, presence or urine, feces Presence of dead animals Inadequate ventilation and lighting Excessive numbers of animals, overcrowding

35 Signs suggestive of animal abuse con’t Owner lives in isolation Physical injuries to animals such as bruising, fractures, repetitive injuries, lesions, burns, gunshot wounds, malnourishment, untreated diseases, drowning, asphyxiation, evidence of animal fighting, bestiality or ritualistic sacrifice Owner unable to afford food both for themselves and their animals Owner unable or unwilling to tell how many animals he/she has


37 Interpreting tests Blood tests X-Rays Necropsies Drugs or other objects found at the location



40 Necropsies May give clues to cause of death May give clues to time of death May help answer the question of whether or not it is a cruelty case.



43 Medical exams Consistent form Identify the animal Pictures are “worth a thousand words” Photographs identify the victim and document the victim’s physical condition




47 Testify in Court Why Veterinarians may be reluctant to testify – Court can be intimidating – Fear of the unknown – Fear of reprisal – Good preparation helpful Payment for testifying


49 Visiting locations Stables and barns Collectors


51 Veterinarians involved in cases Private veterinarians Shelter veterinarians University pathologist

52 Aiding the Investigators Exam the animal early in the investigation Attempt to determine length of time Use language that the investigator understands Communicate both with the investigator and the prosecutor Offer referral to pathologist

53 Cruelty case categories Starvation/ emaciation Traumatic injuries Lack of medical treatment Unsuitable living conditions Dog fighting/ cock fighting

54 Inadequate food and water

55 Inadequate food and water or poor body weight Can be the result of an insufficient quantity of food Can be the result of an insufficient quality of food Can be the result of a medical condition

56 Starvation/emaciation What is the current weight of the dog? What should a dog of that breed age and size weigh? What percentage is the dog underweight? Are skeletal bones prominent? Does the dog show muscle atrophy?

57 Starvation/emaciation con’t Is the dog weak or showing any other physical abnormalities due to its lack of weight? Does the dog have internal parasites? Does the dog have other abnormalities not related to its lack of weight? Opinion as to cause of low weight

58 Starvation/emaciation con’t Approximately how long would it take for a dog to get to this state if started from a normal weight? Use a consistent scale such as the Tuft’s Animal Care and Condition scale (TACC)



61 Inadequate Food and Water or Low Body Weight If the animal is deceased and underweight do no assume that it died because nobody fed it – Request a necropsy ask the veterinarian to check for; -internal body fat -food in the stomach -blockages -contents of the bowel and intestines




65 Follow up Medicals Usually done after 3 weeks or until a certain percentage of weight is gained How much weight has been gained and in what time frame Have other abnormalities improved? Does the dog have the normal ability to gain weight?


67 Traumatic Injuries Gunshot wounds Embedded collars Stabbing Fractures Blunt trauma Throwing animal Burning

68 Traumatic Injury Medicals Description of the wound including location, size and depth Length of time the wound has been present Cause of the injury if possible Did the injury cause suffering? Was the injury evident?

69 Embedded Collars Take photos with the collar and without the collar off Note any odors associated with the injury Describe the injury as you first saw it






75 Follow up Medical Description of the injury now Has the wound/injury improved with proper medical treatment?

76 Lack of medical attention

77 Lack of Medical Describe the medical condition Estimate the length of time the condition has been present If describing a traumatic injury, what is its most likely cause Did the medical condition cause suffering?

78 Lack of Medical con’t Is the medical problem evident to a lay person? In the veterinarian’s opinion, was there any evidence that medical treatment was given?


80 Lack of Medical Follow up Medical Describe the medical problem now Has the medical problem improved with proper treatment?

81 Unsuitable Living Conditions Unsanitary conditions Inadequate shelter Stressful conditions such as overcrowding Tethering improperly

82 Unsuitable Living Conditions Describe the conditions Estimate how long these conditions have been present What physical or psychological problems have or could result from these conditions Are the animals suffering?

83 Follow up Medical Unsuitable Living Conditions What are the conditions now? If the conditions have improved or the animals have been removed, are their physical and /or psychological conditions improved?

84 Dog Fighting Describe the dogs and identify breed Are the breeds a known fighting breed Describe any wounds found on the dogs and give opinion as to cause Evaluate the temperament of the dog especially as it relates to dog to dog aggression


86 Animal Hoarding More than the typical number of companion animals Inability to provide even minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, shelter, and veterinary care, with this neglect often resulting in starvation, illness, and death Denial of the inability to provide this minimum care and the impact of that failure on the animals, the household, and human occupants of the dwelling

87 Veterinarians may know the hoarders As clients As staff members or volunteers As colleagues (HARC is aware of at least 5 full-blown hoarding cases involving veterinarians in active clinical practice) Through their associations with rescue groups and shelters Through law enforcement when asked to evaluate animals As a participant in a rescue or rehabilitation effort

88 Signs of animal hoarding Keystone Veterinarian by Anne Irwin constantly changing parade of pets, most seen once and not again visits for problems not usually seen in good preventive health care like trauma or infectious disease rarely see the same animal for diseases of old age like cancer or heart disease may travel great distances to the practice, come at odd hours and use multiple vets so as not to tip them off about the number of animals may seek heroic and futile care for animals they have recently found being unwilling or unable to say how many animals they have

89 Miscellaneous Severe matting Psychological cruelty Maggot infestation


91 The future of animal cruelty

92 Dr. Melinda Merck, the nation’s premier forensic veterinarian and animal CSI, at the wheel, the vehicle will be available to travel to assist national and local law enforcement in their efforts to build cases against and prosecute animal cruelty offenders:

93 Veterinary Forensics Seminar 1st Annual held in Florida Spring 2008 Veterinarians from around the world Information on various forensics subjects including entomology, blood spatters, stains, botanical evidence, gunshot wounds, clandestine grave site analysis Now a yearly seminar and organized group of forensic veterinarians that can share information

94 University of Florida announced today that they are partnering with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to form the first Veterinary Forensic Sciences Program dedicated to the teaching, research and application of forensic science in the investigation and prosecution of crimes against animals. The program will handle cases from around the country — possibly up to 200 within the first two years — and provide consultancy and training (2009)

95 The University of Florida is home to the new ASPCA Veterinary Forensic Sciences Program and Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Program at the College of Veterinary Medicine. Together, these programs are advancing the science of cruelty investigation and emphasizing the vital role of the veterinarian and first responders in making successful cases.

96 Veterinary roles Participate in community response teams Provide medical care for abused pets Provide educational support for at risk youths and convicted animal abusers Be an expert witness Assist shelters and ACO’s with investigations Cross train to help humane and human services better recognize animal abuse

97 Veterinary roles con’t Alert staff to be aware of family violence signs and provide appropriate resource materials discuss welfare concerns with clients refer cases of abuse to appropriate authorities



100 Mahatma Gandhi “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way it treats it animals”

101 Embedded Collars Take photos with the collar and without the collar off Note any odors associated with the injury Describe the injury as you first saw it

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