Rollin is especially critical of veterinarians' fear of losing clients if they report animal abuse. He uses the voice of Socrates
to argue his case. In The Republic, Plato has Socrates asking questions about justice and injustice. Plato, Rollin points out, makes a critical distinction
between the art of healing and payment for the art of healing by focusing on the role of the shepherd: "Plato says, what you
earn from caring for the sheep is your role as a wage-earner," Rollin explains. "But Plato points out, your primary function
as a shepherd is the care of the sheep."
Before you encounter a case of suspected abuse, you should identify and become acquainted with the appropriate authorities
in your area, says Dr. Patronek. All states have laws against animal abuse, but investigative authorities range from a local
humane society or Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) with police powers to a municipal animal control
office, which is often based within the police department (Table 2). In some communities, enforcement may lie with the local police, sheriff, or municipal animal control. Dr. Patronek recommends
developing a working relationship with the executive director, board president, administrator, or chief investigative officer
of the appropriate investigative authority to better understand how to approach a case of animal abuse, what options are available
for intervention, and what will be expected of you as the case progresses.
Table 2 Be Prepared to Report Animal Abuse
Remember, says Dr. Patronek, if you think you see a case of animal abuse, all you need to do is report your suspicions. It
is up to the investigator to determine whether these suspicions are verifiable. Veterinarians sometimes think they must be
able to establish abuse. But to make a good faith report, they only need a reasonable suspicion. Finding the definitive proof
is the job of the investigator, the prosecutor, and the courts.
Dr. Miller agrees: "Veterinarians are asked to report suspicions of abuse, which prompts an investigation to uncover the facts
of the case. Some veterinarians are afraid to report because they don't know for a fact the animal has been abused. You don't
have to be certain, you just need good faith suspicions. A good faith report is unlikely to create a serious liability problem."
The mechanism for reporting, whether a call or a written report, may vary with the agency, says Dr. Patronek. Anonymous reports
are generally much less helpful to investigators, who may later need additional information, than are confidential reports,
in which a call is made to a specific investigator with the understanding that the reporter's name is not to be divulged.
Once a confidential report is made, the investigator should have no need to divulge the source of the report during the investigation.
However, should the case come to trial, the reporting veterinarian could be asked to testify.
Should you decide to report a suspected case of abuse, you must carefully document the injuries as well as other circumstances
surrounding the case. Dr. Miller and Zawistowski recommend saving everything—"bits of soil found on the paws, hair with traces
of oil or grease, or bits of paint and metal removed from the skin of an animal who was hit by a car...leash, collar, ID tags."13 Include details about the animal—species, breed, age, weight, color, tattoos, ear cropping, tail docking, whether an animal
is polydactyl, declawing, dehorning, different color eyes. Note environmental factors—the weather; access to adequate and
nutritious food and water, shelter, and shade; cleanliness of the surroundings; and any odors.13 Photographs may be invaluable evidence. Also document who delivered the animal, the precise time and place, and the names
of anyone who might have had access to the animal.13
Dr. Miller also advises all veterinarians working on cruelty cases to work closely with the police and investigators to preserve
the evidence and safeguard against accusations of tampering and improper handling.