Veterinary associations have voiced shock and concern over reports that some vets may be deliberately failing to report incidents of dogs being seriously injured while engaged in the illegal “sport” of badger baiting.

Veterinary associations have voiced shock and concern over reports that some vets may be deliberately failing to report incidents of dogs being seriously injured while engaged in the illegal “sport” of badger baiting.

Still taken from the BBC Newsline report on badger baiting in Northern Ireland.The comments have been made in response to reports of badger baiting in Northern Ireland, broadcast on March 15 by BBC Newsline.

Despite having been illegal for over 170 years, badger baiting continues throughout Britain and Ireland. As well as injuries to the badger, many of the dogs involved in the activity suffer serious injuries, particularly to the face and lower jaw.

However, the report also contains claims that some vets are turning a blind eye to the  suspected incidents, or have – in some cases – “hired out their services” to baiters.

Speaking to the BBC, Stephen Philpott from the USPCA said: “Qualified veterinary surgeons know fine well what has happened to those animals.

“They should be lifting the phone immediately and alerting the PSNI [police] or ourselves of what they’ve just seen. But if, as we suspect, they are doing it because they’ve been well paid to do it, then shame on them as well.”

RCVS GUIDANCE
Re: Animal abuse / client confidentiality

If, as a result of examining an animal, there is suspicion of animal abuse, a veterinary surgeon should consider whether the circumstances are sufficiently serious to justify breaching client confidentiality.

In cases where discussing these concerns with the client would not be appropriate, or where the client’s reaction increases rather than allays these concerns, the veterinary surgeon should contact the relevant authorities (e.g. the RSPCA, Scottish SPCA or USPCA), to report alleged cruelty to an animal.

Such action should only be taken when the veterinary surgeon considers on reasonable grounds that the public interest in protecting an animal overrides the professional obligation to maintain client confidentiality.

A veterinary surgeon may contact the RCVS for advice before any confidential information is divulged (020 7202 0789 / profcon@rcvs.org.uk).

In response to the BBC report, Bert Allison, president of the North of Ireland Veterinary Association (a local division of the BVA), said: “Our association, and veterinary surgeons across Northern Ireland and Great Britain, are sickened and appalled by these activities.” 

He went on: “Veterinary surgeons work under a professional code of conduct to uphold animal health and welfare and care deeply about the animals under their care. The claim by USPCA that veterinary surgeons are deliberately failing to report incidents is therefore shocking.”

Mr Allison went on to say that, if the USPCA has evidence that this has happened, the charity must provide all relevant information to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) – the statutory regulator of the veterinary profession.”

While the RCVS has yet to be presented with any evidence to support these claims, it has said that, in conjunction with the relevant authorities, it would investigate any genuine complaint supported by first-hand evidence.

The college is also keen to remind vets of its guidance concerning breaching client confidentiality where they believe animal welfare or the public interest may be compromised (see right).

Image: Still from BBC Newsline report
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