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Considering the relationship between domestic violence and pet abuse and its significance in the veterinary clinical and educational contexts

Authors: Newland X, Boller M, Boller E
Publication: New Zealand Veterinary Journal, Volume 67, Issue 2, pp 55-65, Mar 2019
Publisher: Taylor and Francis

Article class: Review Article

This thematic review examines the literature regarding the relationship between domestic violence (DV) and pet abuse (PA) particularly in the veterinary clinical and educational contexts. It examines the significance of this relationship for the veterinary profession including the veterinarian’s role and associated legal and ethical obligations, and relevant current veterinary education standards, to identify future clinical and educational directions. Articles were sourced from online databases by searching the keywords without date restrictions. Overall, 70 articles were retrieved and reviewed.

Pet abuse has been identified as a potential risk factor for DV, and DV perpetrators may harm or kill a pet to exert physical, psychological or emotional control over an intimate partner. Given that victims of DV often seek veterinary aid for their pets, veterinarians may act as frontline professionals in the recognition of the link between PA and DV. Veterinarians must assess individual cases for diagnostic indicators of non-accidental injury and consider demographic factors to identify suspected PA and DV. Despite existing legal and ethical obligations of the veterinarian relating to suspected PA and victims of DV, veterinarians have uncertainty and unpreparedness in addressing PA and DV in a clinical context. Many factors may contribute to the lack of veterinary intervention in suspected cases of PA and DV including concern for animal welfare, confusion about the reporting process and uncertainty in differentiating accidental versus non-accidental injuries in pets. Specific published guidelines regarding the recognition and reporting of PA and DV in the veterinary clinical context are required. Limited published evidence exists examining the implementation and success of veterinary training regarding the relationship between DV and PA. Ultimately, veterinary student education is needed to prepare veterinarians for their response to PA and DV in practice. Further research is required to examine the effects of the delivery of content regarding the link between PA and DV in the veterinary curriculum on veterinary student knowledge and attitudes.

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