SB 727, introduced by Senators Risser, Ringhand and Carpenter, expanded veterinarians’ duty to report suspected animal cruelty. Unfortunately, the bill expired in the Judiciary Committee without a hearing and will need to be reintroduced in the next Legislative Session, January 2017. You can view the text of SB727 here:
According to Phil Arkow of National Link Coalition, seventeen states, including Wisconsin, mandate veterinarians to report suspected animal abuse. (Note that Wisconsin only requires such reporting when the animal has been involved in fighting. Pennsylvania and Maine have limitations as well.) Eighteen states permit veterinarians to report abuse. Arkow believes all states with reporting provisions grant veterinarians absolute or limited immunity from criminal and civil liability and/or administrative sanctions.
When asked for a statement as to the importance of this legislation, Sen. Carpenter referenced a horrific animal abuse case that involved the torture, poisoning and killing of a dog named Mary.
“I became a co-author of this bill after learning about a shocking reported case in Marathon County against a 20 year old woman accused of killing her boyfriend’s dog in June of 2012. The Labrador-shepherd mix had apparently been treated by a vet who had previously treated this dog for suspicious injuries. We should use every resource we can to fight domestic abuse and a veterinarian should have no excuse not to report suspected abuse. It is my hope that such reporting would not only save a pet from further abuse, but also that it would stop any further escalation of violence against our families. I will continue to work with my colleagues to raise awareness and support for this legislation.”
Melissa Tedrowe, Wisconsin State director, State Affairs for the Humane Society of the United States, says the group supports this legislation. A letter dated March 10, 2016 and sent by the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association to Sen. Risser makes a case for why this legislation is needed.
"There are many reasons why veterinarians should be involved with recognizing and reporting animal cruelty.
Legal Responsibility. There has been an explosion of legislation regarding animal abuse nationwide. Animal cruelty is now a crime in all 50 states, and society is increasingly acknowledging a need for mandating reporting of animal cruelty by the veterinary medical and other professions.
Professional Responsibility. Many professional groups encourage veterinarians, as part of their professional responsibilities, to report animal abuse. These include the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and our organization, the HSVMA.
Ethical responsibility. Animals deserve freedom from pain and violence in their own right, and veterinarians have an ethical responsibility to try to end animal suffering. The Veterinarian’s Oath calls on veterinarians to work for “the prevention and relief of animal suffering.”
Community responsibility. The link between animal abuse and violent human behavior is well established, and veterinarians have a community responsibility to help protect animal health and welfare and to help end animal abuse—and by doing so, possibly human abuse, as well—within their clients’ families and the greater community at large.”
Wondering what Wisconsin veterinarians think, we contacted the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association (WVMA).
“Our Legislative Committee has not taken a position on this bill, at this time,” replied Executive Director Kim Brown Pokorny. “We will look into it if it comes up again next session.”
We encourage WVMA to get actively involved and support this bill next session. As it’s written, the bill states the reporting veterinarian is “immune from civil liability.” So what is there to lose? Reporting suspected abuse will help keep pets and their family members safer.
For more information on the dog Mary, see: http://www.wivotersforcompanionanimals.com/current-stories/searching-for-justice-in-animal-abuse-cases
Denice Ryan Martin, a volunteer with Wisconsin Voters for Companion Animals, is a freelance writer, licensed social worker and animal welfare advocate. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org