Should Vets Report Suspected Dog Fighters?

Vets are being urged to report suspected dog fighting injuries by a leading animal welfare charity, following evidence eye-witness accounts are going unreported.

The appeal from the League Against Cruel Sports follows evidence dog fighting is on the rise, with a survey by the Royal Veterinary College showing 15 per cent of veterinary professionals suspecting they had treated at least one dog that was engaged in illegal dog fighting. To the detriment of dog welfare, however, most of the cases are going unreported amid members of the veterinary profession lacking confidence in how to report their suspicions.

Suzanne Heaney, Dog Fighting Programme Manager at the League Against Cruel Sports, said:

“Vets are in a unique position to help tackle dog fighting where animals with suspected fighting injuries are encountered. It is extremely concerning such incidents are not being routinely reported through the mistaken perception that customer confidentiality prohibits veterinary professionals from raising the alarm with animal welfare charities or the police.

The League – which runs a dog fighting investigations department employing and benefiting from the experience of former police officers – stresses the government’s code of practice recognises animal welfare trumps client confidentiality and the vital role vets play in tackling this growing problem. To help overcome the common misconception the charity has published an educational resource for veterinary professionals outlining how to spot signs of dog fighting and what action can be taken.

Warning signs to look out for include puncture wounds in various stages of healing, typically to the head, neck, chest and forelimbs; marks around the neck from weighted collars used in fight training; owners paying in cash to avoid detection for a dog used in fighting; and owners seeking to purchase drugs or medical supplies (such as antibiotics), with a view to crudely treating injuries themselves.

Suzanne Heaney adds:

“The League urges veterinary professionals to familiarise themselves with the injuries and behaviours which indicate dog fighting, then come forward with any suspected cases in confidence to the League. It may be a cliché, but one very true, that it’s better to be safe than sorry – especially when the life of a dog forced to fight depends on people taking action.”

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