Washington state veterinarians gain immunity for good faith animal abuse reporting

Veterinarians in the state of Washington will now be under more protection from legal repercussions if they need to report suspected animal cruelty following the passage of Substitute Senate Bill 5102.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed the new bill into law May 15, shielding veterinarians from civil and criminal liability in circumstances of good faith reporting of animal cruelty.

According to the Washington State Veterinary Medical Association (WSVMA), which was behind the legislation, the immunity for veterinarians only applies to situations where the veterinarian "receives no financial benefit from the suspected animal cruelty case, beyond payment for services rendered prior to making a report of suspected animal cruelty."

The clause to prohibit financial benefits by abuse reporters was necessary to prevent attempts to profit financially from reporting, the WSVMA said. The association pointed to the prior testimony of two convicted animal abusers who said there are some veterinarians who make false reports and subsequently profit financially from caring for seized animals.

The new legislation is scheduled to take effect July 28, 2013. Washington Sen. Kirk Pearson sponsored the bill, and Dr. Kathy Haigh, WSVMA member and representative from the 35th district, sponsored the House version (HB 1186), the WSVMA reported.

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