A novel study by US scientists may help British vets distinguish animal abuse from accidental trauma and “give a voice to the voiceless”.

dead dog
Motor vehicle accidents are often cited as the cause of injury when they are really due to animal abuse.

Researchers compared records from 50 criminal cases of abuse from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Humane Law Enforcement Division with a sample of 426 motor vehicle accident cases from the foster hospital for small animals at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, US.

It is hoped the findings will help vets and associated parties identify and address animal abuse.

Different injuries

Researchers found cats and dogs involved in motor vehicle accidents presented with different types of injury to those exposed to non-accidental blunt force trauma.

Abused animals generally have more head injuries, tooth and rib fractures, and claw damage, whereas those involved in motor accidents tend to suffer from skin abrasions or injuries where the skin has been torn from tissue, bruising, lung collapse and hind end injury – possibly the result of running away from moving vehicles.

As a result, motor vehicle accidents are often cited as the cause of injury when they are really due to animal abuse, the study indicated. Victims of non-accidental injury are also more likely to have older fractures in addition to newer injuries – a pattern often seen in cases of human abuse.


Robert Reisman, of the ASPCA Anti-Cruelty Group and who co-authored the study, hoped the findings would be a valuable tool for all parties involved.

“This study contributes to the expanding body of research in the growing field of veterinary forensic medicine and will help forensic vets continue to give a voice to the voiceless,” he said.

  • Read the full story – including reaction to the research from the Links Group and the RVC – in the 20 February issue of Veterinary Times.
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4 months 8 days ago

Fascinating, thank you for sharing this research, it is unfortunate that this research was necessary in the first place but it is very encouraging that it has provided information and insights that will help many animals and even help save some lives, and most importantly help to prevent animal abuse as a whole.


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