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BVA and the Scottish SPCA Present:

Veterinary forensics, the link and professional responsibility: What you need to know about animal welfare casework

Friday 10th December 2021 - 9:00am - 4:30pm GMT

BVA and the Scottish SPCA are teaming up to give you an insight into animal welfare casework and veterinary forensics.

From supporting animal welfare investigations, to identifying the ‘link’ between animal cruelty and domestic violence – join us to find out how you can maximise your skills to protect animal welfare.

You’ll hear from experienced vets on how to approach animal welfare investigations, participate in virtual workshops on how to present evidence and be able to put questions to our speakers. We’ll also hear from the Links Group and the University of Edinburgh on the latest research into recognising non-accidental injury, and consider approaches to managing psychological challenges in emotionally demanding work.  

The day, which provides five hours of CPD, is free for BVA members (just enter your BVA coupon code when registering) and £35 for non-members. Delegates will be able to attend the whole day or drop-in to individual sessions. Recordings will be available to delegates after the event.

All BVA members should have received their BVA coupon code via the BVA weekly round-up or event email. If you’re struggling to locate your code please check your BVA Member Dashboard by logging into the BVA website, or email with your BVA membership number.


Free for BVA members - enter coupon code at checkout
£35+VAT for non-members

  • Watch the sessions LIVE
  • Hear from expert speakers
  • Free for BVA members using coupon code
  • Recordings available to delegates post event


Friday 10th December 2021 - 9:00am - 4:30pm

Click each session below to read the synopses. All times are in GMT.

Welcome to the event

Romain Pizzi (BVA Scottish Branch President) and Ian Futter (Scottish SPCA Chief Veterinary Officer)

This interactive workshop is an opportunity to learn more about what a vet practice’s role is when involved in an animal welfare investigation. It will cover the key decision making process that a vet involved in the case should work through, the evidence required and how that evidence should be presented. Delegates will work through a real case example and participate in live discussion including debating the difference between fact and opinion.

Learning outcomes
Through taking part in the workshop delegates will obtain:

• A good understanding on what to do if an inspector removes an animal/s from an owner and is seeking a veterinary opinion regarding their welfare.
• A good understanding of what to do if an animal is presented for examination at the practice with or without the presence of an owner and the decision is that the animal has been caused unnecessary suffering.
• A clear understanding on the types of evidence that would need to be collected as part of an animal welfare investigation.
• A clear understanding of the value to the Scottish SPCA of vets taking a positive role in welfare casework.
• A clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the different parties involved in bring such cases to court in Scotland, with comparison of the similar system in England and Wales.

Time for a break – have some time away from the screen, grab a drink or a snack, and we’ll see you in 15 minutes.

Reporting animal cruelty and neglect can be daunting. In this session we aim to help you navigate vets’ obligation under the RCVS and law to protect animal welfare while not falling foul of client confidentiality and GDPR regulations.

Learning outcomes
• Understand a vet’s obligations under the law and your RCVS declaration.
• Understand the circumstances in which a veterinary professional may breach client confidentiality.
• Understand the basics of GDPR and sharing data.
• Know what expect if the Scottish SPCA or RSPCA requests clinical information about a client.
• Know what to do if a suffering animal is presented and the owner is refusing treatment.
• Be able to identify when it is appropriate to collect evidence.

Time for a break – have some time away from the screen, grab a drink or a snack, and we’ll see you in 15 minutes.

Identifying non-accidental injury (NAI) is a challenge for the veterinary profession, emotionally and intellectually. Reporting concerns is not mandatory, however it could be considered a moral and ethical obligation. This session covers identifying NAI, new research highlighting barriers to vets reporting and practical tips from the Links Group.

Learning outcomes
• Be familiar with the diagnostic indicators of non-accidental injury (NAI).
• Understand the link between violence to people and violence to animals.
• Understand the challenges faced by veterinary professionals when reporting NAI.
• Understand the impact on vets of dealing with NAI / compassion fatigue.
• Know how to deal with a suspected human victim of abuse.

Time for a break – have some time away from the screen, grab a drink or a snack, and we’ll see you in 15 minutes.

There are times when we do our best, and it still doesn’t feel enough. Some of our work in animal welfare means we encounter trauma and suffering that affects us in ways we might not expect. Research on moral injury and compassion fatigue offers some explanation for psychological aspects of the work we do and points to strategies for prevention and support. This session looks at what helps.

Learning outcomes
• Delegates will have reviewed evidence on moral injury and compassion fatigue relevant to professionals working in animal welfare.
• Delegates will have explored how and when moral injury and compassion fatigue occur in animal welfare contexts.
• Delegates will have considered support and prevention strategies.


Scottish Branch President – BVA

Romain Pizzi is a recognised specialist in Zoo & Wildlife Medicine. He works for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Edinburgh Zoo, the Scottish SSPCA National Wildlife Rescue Centre, is founder of Wildlife Surgery International and a director of Zoological Medicine Ltd. He is an honorary assistant professor in zoo & wildlife medicine at the University of Nottingham. He is veterinary advisor to the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria for penguins and common squirrel monkeys, International Wildlife Surgery Advisor to Free The Bears Fund, and is a member of the IUCN Wildlife Health Specialist Group.

Chief Veterinary Officer – Scottish SPCA

Ian qualified from the University of Glasgow Veterinary School in 1992. The first seven years of his career he spent in Mixed Practice around Glasgow treating Companion Animal and Farm species. He then took on a role at Scottish SPCA where he helped establish the Veterinary Department. He is currently Chief veterinary Officer. Ian’s primary role is running a team of shelter Vets and Nurses across three different sites in the Glasgow area. He also advises on Veterinary treatment of animals in the Society’s care around Scotland and sits on the Senior Management Committee. With particular relevance to this conference, Ian has contributed to the expert evidence of hundreds of cases over the past fifteen years presented by the Inspectorate Department of the Scottish SPCA to the Procurator Fiscal Service in Scotland. He is very familiar with the importance of good Witness Statement Report writing and the procedures involved in bringing an animals welfare case to prosecution.

Head of Education, Policy and Research – Scottish SPCA

After completing a BSc Honours Zoology degree at the University of Aberdeen, Gilly moved to Edinburgh to complete an MSc by Research degree focusing on captive primate welfare and behaviour at the University of Edinburgh RDSVS. Following her masters Gilly took up an education resources officer post at the Scottish SPCA and over the last 16 years has progressed to the post of head of education, policy and research.

Gilly’s core activities within the society involves managing the Scottish SPCA’s Animal WISE initiative which engages with thousands of children, young people and adults throughout Scotland via virtual and face to face workshops, e-learning programmes and online resources. She also oversees delivery of the Society’s unique Animal Guardians programme that supports young people who are showing behaviours towards animals that are a cause of concern. She runs collaborative research projects predominantly with the University of Edinburgh, University of Stirling and the University of Glasgow that focus on the impact of animal welfare education, the links between animal cruelty and human abuse, and also the enrichment of animals in the Scottish SPCA’s care (i.e. playing music to kennelled dogs as a way of decreasing their stress levels). By being involved in animal welfare education and research and working closely with the Scottish SPCA’s Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn, Gilly is able to assess and respond to any proposed legislative changes so that we can ensure current animal welfare legislation meets modern day issues.

Group Animal Welfare Adviser – IVC Evidensia

Dave Martin has spent his entire career working in a single mixed practice on the Shropshire Welsh Border from where he has built and developed one of the largest welfare focused case loads in the Country. As such he has considerable experience of prosecution work as an expert witness but also has faced the difficult dilemmas as to when to breach client confidentiality and report welfare concerns. 

He now has taken on a new role as IVC Evidensia’s Group Animal Welfare Advisor and runs both the Non-accidental Injury helpline as well as the in-house welfare support team giving case specific advice to all of the 1600 veterinary practices within the Group

Senior Clinician – RSPCA

Vanessa Whitfield qualified from the University of Bristol in 2001 and has spent 18 years of her career working in the charity sector, first for the PDSA and now the RSPCA. Vanessa is the RSPCA veterinary lead on companion animal welfare prosecution work and also works as a shelter vet at the RSPCA Greater Manchester Hospital where she is part of the management team.

In her role Vanessa acts as an advocate for welfare case prosecution animals and also a point of contact for the parties involved in this legal process. She carries out primary forensic examinations, oversees rehabilitation and acts as a witness, including as an expert, in many cases every year. Vanessa also works collaboratively with others including different RSPCA departments, Universities and animal welfare organisations on best practice and research projects.

Vanessa will shortly be leaving the RSPCA to go to the PDSA , start some independent shelter work and related research.

Jo Williams is Professor of Applied Developmental Psychology, in the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She leads ‘Children, Adolescent and Animals Research’ (caar) and is Director of the Centre for Applied Developmental Psychology at the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on child and adolescent mental health, children’s interactions with animals, cruelty prevention, and One Welfare. She works closely with animal welfare charities, including the Scottish SPCA, to investigate psychological risk and protective factors for childhood animal harm and how we can prevent it through educational interventions. She is also interested in animal-assisted interventions for child and young people’s mental health and the impact of pets on development and health. She is a Board Member of the International Society of Anthrozoology, is part of the Mental Health Working Group for the Society for Companion Animal Studies, sits on the Board of Trustees of Fostering Compassion, and is a member of a range of cross-discipline, cross-sector working groups to support human-animal relationships.

Paula Boyden graduated from the Royal Veterinary College, University of London in 1992. She spent 11 years in general practice before moving into a technical role in industry in 2003. Paula joined Dogs Trust in 2010, where she is now Veterinary Director. In addition to veterinary matters, her responsibilities include Dogs Trust’s outreach work and public affairs. Paula has a particular interest in the link between violence to animals and violence to people; she is current Chair of the Links Group and is regularly involved in undergraduate training on Non-Accidental Injury (NAI) within the UK veterinary schools. Paula is a founder member and past treasurer of the Association of Charity Vets and board member of the Blue Dog Trust. She chairs the Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG), is vice chair of the Canine and Feline Sector Group, sits on the RSPCA’s Prosecutions Oversight Panel and the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission, and is a past member of the Wales Animal Health and Welfare Framework Group. In 2017 she received BSAVA’s J A Wight Memorial Award for her contribution to the welfare of companion animals.

Dr Rosie Allister has received the BVA Chiron Award and RCVS Impact Award for work. Her research focusses on professional mental health, identity, workplace wellbeing, and suicide prevention. She has almost 20 years helpline experience and manages Vetlife Helpline, a 24 hour service for veterinary professionals. She also lectures and delivers training internationally. In her spare time she volunteers with All4Paws veterinary clinic and Samaritans.