Tufts OpenCourseware
Author: Paul Waldau

Societal concern about animals is at an all-time high, and much of this concern has been reflected in increased criminal penalties for certain deliberate types of animal abuse. Today, more than 40 states and the District of Columbia have felony-level penalties for some acts of cruelty. One reason for increased penalties for animal cruelty is that interdisciplinary research has now firmly established the link between animal abuse and other forms of family violence. Veterinarians are increasingly being called upon to play a pro-active role in preventing both animal suffering as well as family violence. This is an area where veterinarians receive very little formal training. Surveys have consistently show that practitioners are very uncomfortable recognizing and reporting suspected animal abuse. To complicate matters further, as the providers of medical care and the most respected source of information about companion animals, the public has very high expectations regarding veterinarians. We will discuss what veterinarians need to know of this important series of problems.

1. Readings

  • The Connection between Cruelty and Human Violence: Interlocking Oppressions or “The Link” - Click here for PDF

  • The Relationship of Animal Abuse to Violence and Other Forms of Antisocial Behavior, Arluke et al 1999

  • HSUS’s First Strike Fact Sheet “What Veterinarians Need to Know”

  • What We Know About the Link Between Animal Abuse and Human Violence, by Mary Lou Randour

2. Reflection Journal Assignment

Due at beginning of next session

Looking Back —What is your opinion regarding:

  • the role(s) to be taken by individual veterinarians in combating “the link” or “interlocking oppressions”? Does it make sense to you that a state government requires its veterinary licensees to report suspected animal cruelty to the proper authorities? Should states require, as do California and several other states, veterinarians to report suspected child abuse (FYI, California has a statute called “Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act” that requires anyone, including veterinarians, licensed under Division 2 of the state’s Business and Professions Code to report any reasonably suspected child abuse);

  • the role(s) of veterinary education in raising this issue; and,

  • possible role(s) that might be taken by the veterinary profession as a whole in this area?

Looking Forward —What do you make of the arguments in the assigned reading that there are SCIENTIFIC (as opposed to purely ethical) grounds for challenging some experimental uses of nonhuman animals? (I recognize that most, if not all, of you are not experts—what I’m looking for is your general impression of these arguments—so if the question stumps you, you might address whether you think they are they made in good faith, or whether you believe they are substantial, superficial, whatever….)