Wisconsin is taking steps toward requiring veterinarians to report animal abuse to law enforcement or to a humane officer, with the effort being spearheaded by State Senator Fred Risser (D-Madison).

Risser's proposed legislation takes veterinary reporting beyond the current law in Wisconsin, which only requires veterinarians to report suspected animal fighting cases. The new legislation would allow veterinarians to report the suspected abuse under a good faith reporting clause, which protects them from civil liability.

According to Risser, abused animals will benefit from his proposed legislation's goal to enlist the expertise of the state's veterinarians.

"The mistreatment of animals is a serious crime and is one which we can better address with the help of veterinarians," Risser said. "As experts in assessing injuries and ailments, veterinarians are invaluable in identifying and protecting animals who have been subject to cruel treatment."

The revised language of the bill states that veterinarians suspecting animal fighting or abuse will be required to submit a written report that includes a description and the location of the animal, any injuries suffered by the animal, and the name and address of the owner or person in charge of the animal, if known.

If the legislation is eventually passed, Wisconsin will join 29 other states that address veterinary reporting of animal abuse.

The bill was sent out for co-sponsorship on April 30, and legislators will have until May 10 to add their name to the bill before it heads to the Senate Chief Clerk's office for committee referral. If it passes out of the committee, it will go to the Legislature for a vote.

Comments (1) -

nanoUnited States
5/5/2013 10:27:25 AM #

While at first glance, this looks like good policy, I think that this legislation would backfire against the best intrests of the animals for three reasons.  First, with this law in place, owners will be more reluctant to bring their pets to veterinarians, especially if their pet has been abused (perhaps by a third party) and as a result, these pets will not receive the medical care that they need.  

Second, this hamstrings the veterinarian; most abuse cases are not cut-and-dry, and although a "good-faith" clause protects them from civil litigation, it does not protect the word-of-mouth reputation of a vet and/or clinic.  Veterinarians are very capable of making decisions that are in the best interest of their patients and what they don't need is a well-intentioned, but naive law on the books that will compromise their decision-making powers.

Lastly, people may argue that physicians are required to report suspected child abuse cases to the authorities.  This cannot be translated to pets because pets, by all current law, are considered property.  So although many people consider pets as "members of their family", the law does not.  I have yet to see a convincing statistic as to how such laws will reduce instances of animal abuse.

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