10 July 2019

Elective to teach Veterinary Medicine students how to identify animal abuse

Vets are increasingly being asked to provide their expertise when animals die unexpectedly, the welfare of an animal is at stake and in cases of animal abuse, alleged or otherwise. Consequently, veterinary surgeons in training are now being offered the Forensic Veterinary Medicine elective. Practising with deceased animals can help students to recognise animal abuse in animal patients they treat later on.

‘Identifying animal abuse can sometimes be tricky since bruises under an animal’s fur are not immediately visible. As such, it is important for students to learn what to look out for if they suspect abuse’, explains Nienke Endenburg, healthcare psychologist and coordinator of the National Expertise Centre for Animal Abuse.
This week the students will be getting lessons from Dr Lorenzo Ressel (Institute of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool). He works with animals that have died a natural death or through euthanasia on account of illness or old age. The dead animals, which are donated for research aims, are deliberately wounded as though they had been victims of animal abuse. ‘Students have a unique opportunity to work with dead dogs and cats with wounds that could suggest animal abuse’, says Endenburg.
Completing this module does not qualify the students as forensic vets. However, it teaches them to recognise animal abuse in practice and what action to take subsequently. They learn how to refer animals on to specialists. This module is being provided in cooperation with staff from the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI).