Veterinarians’ experiences of treating cases of animal abuse: An online questionnaire study

Joanne M. Williams*, Laura Wauthier, Scottish SPCA, Monja Knoll

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study aimed to examine veterinarians’ experiences of treating cases of nonaccidental injury and other forms of animal abuse and to assess their support needs and barriers to reporting cases.


An online questionnaire was completed by 215 veterinarians. The survey included items on demographics and veterinary experience, experience of nonaccidental injuries during the last 12 months, case studies, perceptions of the roles of veterinarians in identifying and reporting cases, and barriers to reporting.

Fifty-three percent reported treating cases and 9% reported suspected cases of abuse in the last 12 months. Experience of abuse in the last 12 months did not vary in terms of veterinarians’ age, sex or number of years in practice. The most commonly affected animals were dogs, cats and rabbits, and the most common forms of abuse were neglect and physical abuse. Case studies focused on physical abuse cases, but neglect cases more often resulted in death. Veterinarians showed high concern about animal abuse but varied in their confidence to intervene and perceived barriers to reporting.

Experience of animal abuse is common, and veterinarians feel a strong moral duty to act, but can lack confidence in intervening. Abuse cases affect stress levels and compassion fatigue; therefore, support and training are needed.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1975
JournalVeterinary Record
Issue number11
Early online date30 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2022


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