B.C.’s top vet, province’s regulating body clash over reporting of suspected animal abuse

CVBC say ‘unequivocal’ evidence needed; Chief vet says duty is to protect animals, not clients

British Columbian veterinarians should only report animal abuse if they have “unequivocal evidence” of wrongdoing by clients, according to a directive sent out in June by the organization regulating the profession in British Columbia.

But the province’s top vet has come out against the position, saying she and her colleagues have an “ethical obligation” to report suspected abuse and warning that the position touted by the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia could undermine the profession.

Writing in a Ministry of Agriculture newsletter last month, B.C.’s Chief Veterinary Officer Jane Pritchard said vets must “address suspected animal abuse or neglect by reporting it appropriately.” See the memo and Pritchard’s response below.

And she took the CVBC to task for emphasizing client confidentiality above reporting abuse in an email the organization sent to members in June.

That memo states that reporting a client “should be reserved for circumstances where there is clear and unequivocal evidence of an animal being in distress as a direct result of the actions of the veterinarian’s client. Threatening to report or reporting on circumstantial evidence will leave veterinarians open to criticism for breaching client trust and confidentiality… Veterinarians will best serve their patients when clients can rely on them to make patient treatment a priority, while simultaneously meeting client confidentiality obligations.”

The Prevention of Cruelty Act states that veterinarians “must promptly report” what they know if they think a client is “likely” abusing an animal. The CVBC position, which cites the need for “unequivocal evidence,” would require a vet knows for certain abuse is happening before reporting it to authorities.

In opposing the CVBC memo, Pritchard cited provincial law, an oath taken by vets to protect animal health and welfare, and several high-profile animal abuse cases in the Fraser Valley over the last year.

“The emphasis on protecting client confidentiality to defend not reporting animal cruelty seems to me to be less than professional within the context of our oath and the requirements of the PCA.”

Pritchard wrote that the “CVBC memo focused on the role for veterinarians to protect client confidentiality in face of possible animal abuse.”

She wrote: “In B.C. we have witnessed high-profile media coverage and public outrage on extreme acts of cruelty against farm animals in recent months and years. The public often questions what the role of the veterinarian is in these circumstances, and if we do not speak up, take an interest, ask questions and become engaged in this area, I fear we, as veterinarians will be seen as irrelevant in protecting animal welfare. I feel that veterinarians need to remain relevant in animal welfare that we should actively continue to “strive to promote animal health and welfare, relieve animal suffering.”

In an email to The News and Pritchard, CVBC CEO Luisa Hlus said Pritchard “makes some good points.” But she suggested there were “grey cases.”

Hlus wrote that “Clients who do not trust their vet (or any vet) as a result of a PCAA report may continue to own animals, but may avoid future veterinary care, potentially resulting in many more animals suffering over time than the one animal saved by that report.”

She added: “Other professions (such as physicians, dentists and lawyers) grapple with similarly difficult issues, and all receive similar advice from their respective regulators about carefully balancing competing duties except in clear cases. The analysis and answers are not as simply as special interest or advocacy groups might suggest.”

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) is also circulating a draft position paper that focuses on vet’s “ethical obligation” to report abuse.

The CVMA has not released its draft statement, but Pritchard said she supports the CVMA position that states suspected animal abuse must be reported. The final statement will be released later this year and may include changes depending on comments from members, the organization’s communications manager said.

 

Just Posted

Greater Victoria School District adopts new dress code policy

Two years in the making, SD61 moves to more inclusionary guidelines

Legal action against B.C. specualtion tax a last resort

Group of Arizona home owners feel they’ve been swept up in an attack on land speculators

Rock the Rink gives youth once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

Winning band will get to play a set at Rock the Shores

Sooke makes call for regional fire dispatch

Some municipalities decide to take service off-Island

Victoria beaches 1,560 pounds lighter after Surfrider cleanup

200 people came out to clean the beach on Earth Day

Parents call for change to health laws after Oak Bay teen’s death

Accidental overdose has Elliot Eurchuk’s parents seeking change to B.C Infants Act

EDITORIAL: Greater Victoria amalgamation no magic bullet

Taxpaying citizens need to ask tough questions of both sides in debate

Doctor sees healing power in psychedelic plant as Peru investigates death of B.C. man

Peru’s attorney general has ordered the arrest of two suspects in the killing of 41-year-old Sebastian Woodroffe

Toronto police officer ‘gave himself the space and time’ in van attack

Footage shows officer standing up, turning off his siren and talking clearly to the suspect

$1.18 to $1.58 a litre: Are you paying the most for gas in B.C.?

Gas prices across B.C. vary, with lowest in Vernon and highest in – you guessed it – Metro Vancouver

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of April 24

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Inquest set 10 years after B.C. woman shot, left to die

Lisa Dudley, and her partner, Guthrie McKay were shot in their Mission home in September 2008

B.C. hockey team to retire Humboldt Bronco victim’s number

BCHL’s Surrey Eagles to retire Jaxon Joseph’s No. 10 in light of bus tragedy

B.C. Hells Angels invited to rally by anti-SOGI organizer

The Culture Guard group has helped Hells Angels in the past, said its executive director.

Most Read