Monday, December 17, 2007

New law: Vets must report animal abuse

DENVER – A new Colorado law that went into effect on Sunday requires veterinarians to report any case in which they suspect an animal is being abused or involved in fighting.

Diane Balkin, with the Denver District Attorney's office, says that cruelty is defined by law as any act of mistreatment or neglect.

The law does not apply to physical abuse alone, says Dr. Michelle Smith, of the 29th Avenue Animal Hospital at Stapleton.

"It can be neglect in the form of leaving a dog outside without adequate shelter on a hot day, or not giving enough food or water," she said.

The law is patterned after child abuse laws where a medical doctor is required to report child abuse.

Some fear that the law will discourage people from taking their pets to the vet for treatment, but Denver city leaders disagree.

"The studies have indicated that individuals won't be deterred from seeking veterinary care for fear the vet will report them. There are certainly a host of people that won't go to the vet at all just like there are people who will not go to the pediatrician or go to any type of medical doctor," said Balkin.

Only six other states have passed similar animal abuse prevention laws. The Colorado Veterinary Medical Association has backed the law with overwhelming support.