Vets are to be given the chance to shape the way animal abuse is tackled by participating in a new survey that could bring the profession in line with its human medicine counterpart.

The survey – the first of its kind in the UK – will examine vets’ self-efficacy and confidence in recognising and reporting animal abuse in practice and their perceptions of the training available.

The survey will examine vets’ self-efficacy and confidence in recognising and reporting animal abuse in practice and their perceptions of the training available. Image © celiafoto /

University of Kent postgraduate student Ornela Sienauskaite, who created the online survey as part of her MSc in forensic psychology, hopes the findings will enhance vets’ understanding of, and ability to, address suspected abuse cases in addition to informing existing resources and future training.

Ms Sienauskaite was inspired to undertake the project after reading a research paper comparing doctors’ ability to recognise child abuse with vets’ ability to spot abuse of animals.

Ms Sienauskaite said: “I thought it was a really interesting comparison, and the paper went on to say resources for training doctors to recognise child sex abuse have been well developed, and standardised procedures are being followed – increasing doctors’ self-efficacy of recognising and reporting child abuse.”

Not confident

Ms Sienauskaite continued: “As I dug deeper, I found vets were not confident in reporting animal abuse for various reasons, but the main reason was a lack of training.

“I feel this study is of high importance as the findings could have great implications for the veterinary profession, professional bodies and could help develop training materials, as well as help victims – both human and animal.”

Better understanding

The survey has been welcomed by Freda Scott-Park, representative of The Links Group, a multi-agency organisation that promotes the welfare and safety of vulnerable children, adults and animals via training courses, and initiatives with the aim of increasing awareness and ensuring all parties are free from violence and abuse.

Dr Scott-Park said: “Few vets are experts in abuse and although we provide training through the Links Veterinary Training Initiative, we are well aware relatively few vets (or other members of the veterinary team) have attended, and, therefore, this study will help us better understand and target our training.“

For more information and to complete the study, visit

For more information on the Links Group, visit

  • Read the full story in the 24 April issue of Veterinary Times.
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