25 Aug CVMA and BAP report results of 2023 veterinarian survey on recognizing and reporting animal abuse and neglect
In February 2023, the Colorado Department of Agriculture Bureau of Animal Protection (BAP) and the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) collaborated to conduct a survey of Colorado veterinarians on recognizing and reporting animal abuse and neglect. The survey was designed to gain a better understanding of veterinarians’ confidence in recognizing and reporting animal abuse as well as the barriers influencing their engagement with this topic. The survey was distributed in CVMA’s eVOICE as well as the Colorado State Veterinarian listserv the week of February 13, 2023 and received a total of 103 responses. Of these respondents, 50.5% worked in small animal private practice, 20.4% worked in mixed animal private practice, and 17.5% worked in large animal/equine private practice.
Overall, respondents had mixed perspective on their level of confidence in reporting recognizing signs of animal abuse and neglect; while 42.7% felt “very” or “extremely” confident recognizing signs of animal abuse and neglect themselves, fewer (29.8%) felt “very” or “extremely” confident that their staff could recognizing signs of animal abuse and neglect. Also fewer (32%) respondents felt “very” or “extremely” confident in how to report signs of animal abuse and neglect. Relatedly, many respondents felt that they lacked knowledge on Colorado’s animal protection laws; specifically; only 15.6% of respondents felt “very” or “extremely” knowledgeable about these laws.
When asked what influenced their confidence/willingness to report animal abuse or neglect, uncertainty on whether the situation constitutes abuse/neglect was most often reported as important, followed by concern about testifying if the case goes to trial (Figure 1). A small percentage (26%) of respondents felt “very” or “extremely” confident testifying in cases of animal neglect/cruelty. Uncertainty about the legal process and what is required and uncertainty about what to say on the stand were the factors most impacting respondents’ confidence or willingness to testify in cases of animal cruelty or neglect (Figure 2).
Finally, when asked what resources would be helpful for recognizing and responding to animal abuse and neglect, 81.4% of respondents believed that a compiled manual on Colorado’s animal protection laws would be “very” or “extremely” helpful, 71.6% of respondents believed that a brief reference guide (i.e. a poster, brochure) on common signs of animal abuse and neglect would be “very” or “extremely” helpful, and 70.9% of respondents believe that a continuing education class on these topics would be “very” or “extremely” helpful. Respondents felt that continuing education should especially cover medical record documentation and evidence collection and recognizing neglect or non-accidental injury.
In response to the survey results, BAP will work with CVMA as well as the CSU Animal-Human Policy Center to begin developing reference materials and continuing education presentations for veterinarians on these topics. Stay tuned for more information as these materials and presentations are developed! If you have any questions about this survey and the next steps, please contact BAP Lead Veterinarian Dr. Claire Vaiden at [email protected].
Figure 1: Factors influencing respondents’ willingness to report animal abuse/neglect
Figure 2: Factors influencing respondents’ willingness to testify in cases of animal abuse/neglect