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"The Link between animal abuse and domestic violence; implications for veterinary teams during Covid-19 and beyond"

Tuesday 14th July, 12:30pm BST

Paula Boyden BVetMed, MRCVS - Links Group Chair and Dogs Trust Veterinary Director
Mike Flynn – Scottish SPCA Chief Superintendent
Caroline Allen MA VetMB CertSAM MRCVS – RSPCA Chief Vet
David Martin BVSc MRCVS – Veterinary Expert Witness

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About the webinar:

We know that when humans are abused, animals are at risk. We are clearly aware of the unprecedented times we are in with the current sanctions on movement and social interaction due to COVID-19. Whilst these are absolutely necessary, we wish to highlight the unintended consequences which are affecting thousands of people and will have an impact on the profession.

Since lockdown on the 23rd March, most recent figures show that calls to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline have risen by 49%. The Home Office Select Committee Report states that 14 women and two children were killed in the first 3 weeks of lockdown, a figure which has sadly since increased.

(All stats reported here: and here: Counting Dead Women Project:

The link between violence to people and violence to animals is well documented; the family pet is often part of the domestic abuse cycle with perpetrators using the pet to exert power and control over their victim. Given the statistics, it is very likely that there will be an increase of non-accidental injury (NAI) and violence towards animals in these situations.
In light of this, we urge colleagues to consider NAI / deliberate injury as a differential in cases of traumatic injury in pets, especially as there should be fewer road traffic accidents with lower traffic volumes and limited movement at this time.

If colleagues have concerns or suspicions of NAI, we would encourage admission of an animal for observation to allow for time for investigations to be conducted. In an emergency where there is an immediate threat to either a person or an animal then the police should be called using the 999 system.

The Links Group’s guidance for the veterinary team on dealing with suspected abuse can be found at:

So, what can veterinary teams do right now?

Our panel of experts in the field of the “Link” will answer this and other questions around the subject.

Learning Objectives:

  • Basic signs of non-accidental injuries (NAI) in animals
  • What to do once you have suspicions of NAI in an animal
  • What to do once you have confirmed a diagnosis of NAI in an animal
  • How to support a client who may be a victim
  • Referring organisations who can help

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About the speakers

Paula Boyden BVetMed MRCVS

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, campaigns 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 is a member of the Wales Animal Health and Welfare Framework Group and the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission. In 2017 she received BSAVA’s J A Wight Memorial Award for her contribution to the welfare of companion animals.

Mike Flynn
Chief Superintendent

I started with the Scottish SPCA in May 1987: Initiated and started the Scottish SPCA undercover unit, as a single unit, working on organised dog fighting, Badger baiting, puppy farms etc. I wrote the first Inspectors instruction manual that was approved by Crown Office.

Currently responsible for; all uniformed staff within the Society, all Parliamentary issues relating to animal welfare regarding both devolved and reserved issues, dealing with all animals welfare related Government consultations, including oral evidence to both Scottish and Westminster Committees. I am the main contact for Scottish Government officials. First point of contact for any MSP’s, MP’s and Euro MP’s concerns. Prepare and sign all MOU’s between Police Scotland, APHA and local authorities to avoid duplication of work.

I am a founder member of the original Links Group (exploring the link between animal and human abuse), Current member of the Science and Ethics Committee of Edinburgh Zoo. Independent external animal welfare advisor on the welfare and ethics committee of Scotland’s largest scientific animal research company.
I have assisted in implementing legislation in Jersey, North and Southern Ireland, Canada and Catalonia.

Awarded an MBE in the Queens 80th birthday honours list.

Caroline Allen MA VetMB CertSAM MRCVS

Caroline is the Chief Vet of the RSPCA. She joined the RSPCA after spending 20 years in small animal practice. Caroline is on RCVS Council and the Committee of the Association of Charity Vets.

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