Today's Veterinary Business

DEC-JAN 2017

Today’s Veterinary Business provides information and resources designed to help veterinarians and office management improve the financial performance of their practices, allowing them to increase the level of patient care and client service.

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Page 31 of 67

30 Today's Veterinary Business Community Veterinary professionals are committed to the health and well-being of pets, so the issue seems simple on its face: If you suspect animal abuse, you do the right thing and report it. Unfortu- nately, doing the right thing can carry tremendous risks. Because the patchwork of reporting laws affects practitioners' legal liability (i.e. monetary risk), it is critical that veterinarians and business part- ners understand what they are up against in each state. Let's try to make sense of all this in plain English. If you disagree, then follow Shakespeare's advice and blame the lawyers (or at least this author). Here's the scenario: A veterinari- an suspects a client of abuse, cruelty or neglect toward a pet the veteri- narian is treating. Does the veterinar- ian have a legal duty, with her license on the line, to report the suspected abuse to legal authorities? And if she does, is the veterinarian immune from a lawsuit if the pet owner is not happy with the situation caused by the veterinarian's reporting? I'll list the states from most lax or easiest to most stringent or difficult in how they treat a veteri- narian under these circumstances. Then we'll look down the road to see where these issues are head - ing, with an eye toward the United Kingdom's veterinary laws. Easiest or Most Lax The 12 states highlighted in the map below have (a) no mandatory duty to report and (b) if a veterinar- ian happens to report, then she is immune from liability. You'll notice no geographic or Great expectations Only a lawyer could figure out a veterinarian's reporting duties when animal abuse is suspected. ideological pattern here. We range from the deepest red to the deepest blue states, large and tiny. In these states, a veterinarian never has to wor- ry about reporting, and if she does mention something to the authorities, then the client cannot sue her. (The only duty to report in Wisconsin is upon evidence of an animal fight.) Next Easiest These 15 states — see the map on Page 31 — have (a) no duty to report but (b) no immunity. Again, you'll see no geographic links or partisan patterns, but what should be clear here is that the best practice in most circumstances — put aside the moral issue — is for a veterinarian to say nothing. Veteri- narians and the public may cringe at this, but that's the law and it has clear implication for practitioners. If you don't like it, take it to the legis- lature or ask your VMA to do so. Third Easiest Five states — Georgia, New York, North Carolina, Utah and Virginia — have (a) voluntary encourage- The virtue or vice of a federalist system of government — where the states retain powers to legislate — is the wide disparity in how laws affect the same category of persons or businesses. Nowhere is this truer than with each state's approach to a veterinarian's duties to report animal abuse by a client. Community POLITICS & POLICY By Mark Cushing, JD Easiest or More Lax: 12 states

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