Veterinary practices and animal welfare organisations must work together to raise awareness and create a national network of pet fostering services to help victims of domestic violence to escape their abusers, journalists were told at a press conference at the annual Congress of the British Small Animal Veterinary Association in Birmingham.
Former BSAVA and BVA President Freda Scott-Park is chair of the Links Group, the multi-agency body working to tackle domestic violence towards pets, children and adults. The next major challenge for the Links Group to overcome was the shortage of places where pets can be safely looked after, should the victim try to leave the abusive home taking their pet with them. It is a well-known fact that many victims delay leaving the home unless they can take their pet with them, for fear that the animals will be harmed in retribution for their departure.
Dr Scott-Park explained how the Links Group has been working since 2001 to help veterinary staff recognise animal abuse (this is not always straightforward) and further, to understand that in a violent household where an animal has been deliberately injured, there may be a human victim. Human healthcare professionals, the police and social services are now familiar with circumstances where animals are at risk of being hurt. The Links Group provides a platform where both veterinary and human healthcare professionals share information and work together to increase their respective understanding of the animal or human victims.
“Vets are now part of a huge worldwide family that has zero tolerance of violence in all its forms,” she said.
In the past year, the Links Group has completed work on a 12 page leaflet that introduces the concept of non-accidental injury and sketches out a protocol to approach these complex cases. A longer and more comprehensive guidance document gives in-depth explanations of the subject of animal abuse and its possible link to human abuse. These documents will be sent to every veterinary surgeon in Great Britain in the forthcoming weeks. The Links Practice Poster will be prepared during the summer and will give a quick visual reminder to practice staff on how to employ the A V D R technique to ask the correct questions that will help release the right information without alarming or upsetting the client.
Please click here to download the guidelines AWF Recognising abuse in animals and humans