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.
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: https://thelinksgroup.org.uk/training
So, what can veterinary teams do right now?
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