Letters to the Editor

Efforts to eliminate animal abuse

We applaud Dr. Woolf for her recent commentary1 calling for more education and training to help veterinarians report suspicions of animal abuse. As the FBI begins tracking animal abuse cases through its Uniform Crime Reporting Program, veterinarians should expect to be increasingly called on not only to report their suspicions but also to assist in crime scene investigations, including collecting, preserving, and documenting evidence and testifying in court.

There are many available resources to help veterinarians when they suspect cases of animal abuse. The American Humane Association published the first veterinarian's guide to handling animal abuse in the United States in 1997, and Helen Munro, a Scottish veterinarian, first described battered pets in 1996 and provided more details in a series of articles published in the Journal of Small Animal Practice in 2001. In addition to forensics textbooks and guides by Randall Lockwood, Melinda Merck, Helen Munro, and John Cooper, excellent resources describing diagnostic and clinical patterns of animal injury and neglect are available on the websites of the AVMA, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and National Link Coalition. In addition, several excellent guides to assist veterinarians with practice management issues involved with reporting abuse have been published by the AVMA, New Zealand Veterinary Council, New Zealand Veterinary Association, and the Links Group UK, along with a forthcoming booklet by the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association. The North American Veterinary Community and International Veterinary Forensics Science Association both offer veterinary forensics tracks at their annual conferences. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has been providing lectures to veterinarians and the law enforcement community for several years and partnered with the University of Florida to offer an online master's degree program and graduate certificate course in veterinary forensics.

But more needs to be done to educate veterinary professionals. We encourage the AVMA and American Animal Hospital Association to include veterinary forensics training each year at their annual conferences, featuring some of the many veterinarians and nonveterinarians now qualified to speak on this topic.

In August 2015, the New Zealand Veterinary Association described veterinary medicine as a “three-dimensional profession” with a unique voice in providing leadership on issues related to animal life, human life, and the environment, including that country's response to family violence. In September 2015, Scotland's veterinarians began receiving government-funded training to assist in recognizing and responding to suspected intimate partner violence. And in November 2015, the American Animal Hospital Association encouraged the adoption of laws mandating veterinarian reporting of suspicions of animal abuse, with immunity from liability.

Such actions abroad and at home reflect a sea change in the public's perception and expectations of veterinarians. Veterinary college and continuing education leaders should respond by providing training that matches the urgency of this critical need and professional responsibility.

Lila Miller, dvm

Vice President, Shelter Medicine

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

New York, NY

Phil Arkow, ba

Coordinator, National Link Coalition

Stratford, NJ

1. Woolf JA. How can veterinarians be reporters of animal abuse when they are not taught to recognize it? J Am Vet Med Assoc 2015;247:13631364.

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Conveying the importance of veterinary dental health

I enjoyed reading the JAVMA News story1 on preventive dentistry. Recently, Dr. Cindy Charlier gave a presentation at the Southeast Michigan Veterinary Medical Association educational meeting during which she passed along excellent advice regarding how we as clinicians can and should do a better job of client education when it comes to dental issues in companion animals. A major theme in her presentation was our failure to articulate the seriousness of dental disease in our advocacy for the health of pets under our care.

This year will be the year that my practice gets serious about our advocacy of dental health issues. We are examining and modifying our attitudes and protocols and how we discuss dental disease with our clients. It will not be easy or quick, but I am convinced that there is a need to change the “dental culture” in our profession.

I would like to share a simple suggestion that we are intending to implement in our practice this year. It seems that in every single continuing education lecture or series on veterinary dental care I have attended, there has been a picture of a veterinarian performing an oral examination on a patient. Invariably, the examiner is not wearing examination gloves, which I would guess mirrors what most of us do in practice. In fact, such a picture was included with the JAVMA News story.

From our clients’ perspective, what message does this send? We discuss the serious implications of dental infections in their pets but stick our ungloved hands into their pets’ mouths. Simply donning gloves for the oral examination would demonstrate that we take oral bacterial issues seriously. As Dr. Charlier suggested in her presentation, it is not our clients’ fault for declining dental treatments when we fail to articulate and demonstrate the seriousness of dental disease in their pets.

John S. Parker, dvm

Briarpointe Veterinary Clinic

Novi, Mich

1. Burns K. True prophylaxis. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2016;248:130135.

Hydraulic fracturing and livestock

I read with interest the recent letter to the editor related to residue concerns following exposure of livestock to oil and petroleum products.1 However, I think the authors may have overstated the risk that livestock may be exposed to toxic products at hydraulic fracturing well sites. These sites are enclosed by an 8-foot fence with a locked gate and a dam to prevent runoff, making it unlikely that livestock or wildlife could be exposed to oil products. In addition, leakage of even as little as 50 gallons of brine from a well site would result in a major cleanup effort, as mandated by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Hydraulic fracturing has been used for > 50 years and is approved by all government agencies.

Keith D. Burgett, dvm

Carrollton Animal Hospital

Carrollton, Ohio

1. DeDonder KD, Gehring R, Riviere JE. Residue concerns following exposure of livestock to oil and petroleum products (lett). J Am Vet Med Assoc 2016;248:145146.

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A call for data on gorillas

There's still much to be learned about the health, welfare, and conservation of gorillas, both in the wild and in captivity. In furtherance of this goal, Gordon Hull and I have been working to develop a catalog of preserved materials available for study. We already have a list of > 5,000 specimens in 450 institutions—chiefly museums, zoos, and university departments—in 44 countries that includes information on the whereabouts of skulls, skeletons, skins, fluid-preserved specimens, casts, and laboratory resources such as histologic sections, blood smears, and samples stored for DNA, toxicologic, and virologic studies. We are grateful to those colleagues who have already provided information on where stored material from gorillas is located—in zoos, laboratories, and veterinary museums, for example—and on its availability, by arrangement, for study and would encourage others who have similar data to share them.

John E Cooper, bvsc, dtvm

Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology

School of Anthropology and Conservation

University of Kent

Canterbury, Kent, England

  • 1. Woolf JA. How can veterinarians be reporters of animal abuse when they are not taught to recognize it? J Am Vet Med Assoc 2015;247:13631364.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 1. Burns K. True prophylaxis. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2016;248:130135.

  • 1. DeDonder KD, Gehring R, Riviere JE. Residue concerns following exposure of livestock to oil and petroleum products (lett). J Am Vet Med Assoc 2016;248:145146.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

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