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Table of Veterinary Reporting Requirement and Immunity Laws

Rebecca F. Wisch


Animal Legal & Historical Center
Publish Date:
2008 (updated 2011)
Place of Publication: Michigan State University College of Law
Printable Version

Table of Veterinary Reporting Requirement and Immunity Laws
This table lists the approximate 29 states that laws (see below where administrative rules of professional conduct may oblige licensed veterinarians to report) related to the reporting of animal cruelty by veterinarians.  Many states such as California, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and West Virginia place a duty upon state-licensed veterinarians to report suspected animal cruelty to the proper authorities described by statute.  Usually, this consists of reporting the abuse to local law enforcement agencies.  In addition, Arizona and Wisconsin specifically mandate that veterinarians report suspected instances of dogfighting.  Other states do not require veterinarians to report animal abuse, but rather allow veterinary professionals to take such action.  These voluntary reporting statutes, as seen in states such as Georgia, Maryland, and Maine among others, give veterinarians the authority to break patient-client confidentiality and report abuse.  Further, in most states with either a mandatory or voluntary reporting law, a companion immunity provision is also provided.  Such an immunity statute protects a veterinarian from any civil liability (and sometimes criminal) arising from the reporting of the abuse.  Thus, if a veterinarian reported injuries he or she found consistent with intentional animal abuse to local authorities, he or she could not be sued by the owner of the animal for libel or defamation.

In addition to reporting requirements in state laws, states may have administrative provisions that concern reporting of animal cruelty. For example, under Kansas' rules of professional conduct for veterinarians, the failure by a veterinarian to report to proper authorities the cruel or inhumane treatment of animals, if he or she has direct knowledge, is grounds for disciplinary action. Oklahoma has a similar provision in its Rules of Professional Conduct for veterinarians ( See Okla. Admin. Code 775:10-5-30(8)). North Dakota includes in its list of professional misconduct: "Failing to report to law enforcement or humane officers inhumane treatment to animals, including staged animal fights or training events for fights, the veterinarian reasonably believed occurred." ND ADC 87-05-02-01(8). Other states such as Alabama, Maryland, and Virginia also have reporting requirements in their rules of professional responsibility for licensed veterinarians.

Despite the recent surge in reporting laws, some veterinarians and professional organizations hesitate to embrace such laws.  Veterinarians have concerns over breaking client confidentiality with the owners of their patients as well as concerns about accurately detecting signs of animal abuse.  The premier professional organizations for veterinarians, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), have both issued policy statements that address reporting of animal abuse by veterinarians.  The AAHA position statement provides that veterinarians should be required to report where client education has failed or where "immediate intervention" is necessitated, but "only when the law exempts veterinarians from civil and criminal liability for reporting" (to read the policy statement, click here).  Many animal welfare advocates suggest that a veterinarian's role is critical in both detecting and preventing further abuse.  However, there is limited information as to whether state reporting statutes have increased the prosecution of those who abuse animals under their care.

State

 

Citation

 

Who Has Duty

 

Type of Duty to Report

 

Immunity Provision

 

Unique Aspects of Law

 

 

AZ

 

AZ ST § 32-2239

 

 

Veterinarian

 

Mandatory duty

 

Suspected dogfighting or animal abuse in writing within 30 days

 

 

Veterinarian who files a report as provided in this section shall be immune from civil liability with respect to any report made in good faith.

 

Vet must also report cases of suspected livestock abuse to AZ Dept. of Ag.

 

CA

 

CA BUS & PROF CODE §  4830.7

 

 

Licensee under the chapter

 

Mandatory duty

 

Reasonable cause to believe an animal has been a victim of animal abuse, must promptly report to law enforcement

 

 

No licensee shall incur any civil liability as a result of making any report

 

 

CO

 

CO ST § 18-9-209

and

CO ST § 12-64-121

 

 

Immunity provision for any person reporting cruelty and separate licensed vet immunity law

 

Mandatory duty for vets

 

Reasonable cause to know or suspect that the animal has been subjected to cruelty or animal fighting shall report to local law enforcement or bureau of animal protection

 

No time frame listed

 

 

A licensed veterinarian who in good faith reports a suspected incident shall be immune from liability in any civil or criminal action brought against the veterinarian for reporting the incident.

 

Good faith is presumed on the part of veterinarian

 

FL

 

FL ST 828.12

 

 

Licensed veterinarian

 

No duty

 

Vet shall be held harmless from either criminal or civil liability for any decisions made or services rendered under the provisions of this section; immune from a lawsuit for his or her part in an investigation of cruelty to animals.

 

 

 

GA

 

GA ST 4-11-17

 

 

Licensed accredited veterinarian or veterinary technician

 

Voluntary reporting

 

Reasonable cause to believe that an animal has been subjected to animal cruelty or dog fighting may make or cause to be made a report of such violation

 

 

Any person participating in the making of a report shall be immune from any civil or criminal liability provided such participation is made in good faith.

 

 

Specifically includes veterinary technicians in reporting and immunity law

 

ID

 

ID ST 25-3504

 

 

Licensed veterinarian

 

No duty

 

A vet shall be held harmless from either criminal or civil liability for any decisions made or services rendered under the provisions of this chapter. Such a veterinarian is protected from a lawsuit for his part in an investigation of cruelty to animals

 

 

A veterinarian who participates or reports in bad faith or with malice shall not be protected under the provisions of this section

 

IL

 

510 ILCS 70/3.07

 

 

Any veterinarian in this State

 

Mandatory duty

 

Observes or is presented with an animal or animals for the treatment of aggravated cruelty must file a report with the Department

 

Any veterinarian who in good faith makes a report, has immunity from any liability, civil, criminal, or otherwise, that may result from his or her actions.

 

The report must furnish the owner's name, the date of receipt of the animal or animals and any treatment administered, and a description of the animal or animals involved, including a microchip number.

 

Good faith of the veterinarian is presumed.

 

 

IN

 

IN ST 25-38.1-4-8.5

 

A veterinarian or registered veterinary technician

 

No duty

 

Who reports in good faith and in the normal course of business a case of suspected animal cruelty to a law enforcement official is immune from civil or criminal liability from reporting the incident.

 

 

 

KS

 

Professional Duty: KS ADC 70-1-8(p)

Immunity Provision: 

KS ST 21-4311

and 

KS ST 47-839

 

 

Licensed veterinarian

 

Mandatory professional duty to report by veterinarians (grounds for disciplinary action for failure to report)

It is considered "unprofessional conduct" and shall constitute grounds for disciplinary action for a licensed veterinarian to fail to report "to the proper authorities cruel or inhumane treatment to animals, if the veterinarian has direct knowledge of the cruel or inhumane treatment."

 

 

The owner or custodian of an animal placed for adoption or killed shall not be entitled to recover damages for the placement or killing of such animal unless the owner proves that such placement or killing was unwarranted.

 

 

 

 

Privilege for confidentiality of client’s records waived if reporting cruel or inhumane treatment of animal to federal, state, or local governmental agencies

 

ME

 

ME ST Tit. 7 § 4018

 

 

A veterinarian licensed in state

 

Voluntary reporting

 

Veterinarian who has reasonable cause to suspect that an animal is the subject of cruelty or neglect in violation may report the suspected violation.

 

 

A veterinarian reporting or testifying under this section is immune from criminal or civil liability or professional disciplinary action that might otherwise result from these actions

 

 

MD

 

MD AGRIC § 2-304

 

 

Veterinarian

 

Voluntary reporting

Statute that provides that Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners shall adopt regulations that encourage veterinarians to report suspected cruelty to law enforcement

 

 

A veterinary practitioner shall be immune from any civil liability that results from a report in good faith to a local law enforcement or county animal control agency under this subsection

 

 

MA

 

MA ST 112 § 58B

 

 

Veterinarian duly registered

 

No duty

 

Veterinarian in good faith and in the normal course of business reports a suspected act of cruelty to animals not liable in a civil or criminal action for reporting such act.

 

 

 

MI

 

MI ST 333.18827

 

 

Veterinarian or veterinary technician

 

No duty

 

In good faith reports that an animal that the veterinarian or veterinary technician knows or reasonably believes to be abandoned, neglected, or abused is immune from civil or criminal liability for making the report.

 

 

Immunity provision covers abandonment, neglect, and abuse.

 

MN

 

MN ST 346.36 -  346.37

 

 

Veterinarian

 

Mandatory duty

 

A veterinarian must report known or suspected cases of abuse, cruelty, or neglect to peace officers and humane agents

 

 

 

 

MS

 

MS ST § 73-39-87

 

 

Any veterinarian licensed in this state

 

No duty

 

Reports, in good faith and in the normal course of business, a suspected incident of animal cruelty to the proper authorities shall be immune from liability in any civil or criminal action brought against the veterinarian for reporting the incident

 

 

 

NE

 

NE ST 28-1020

 

 

Any animal health care professional while acting in official capacity in scope of employment

 

 

Mandatory duty

Observes or is involved in an incident that leads him or her to suspect that an animal has been abandoned, cruelly neglected, or cruelly mistreated shall report such incident to an entity that investigates in the jurisdiction.

 

 

Any person making a report is immune from liability except for false statements of fact made with malicious intent.

 

The law impose a duty to report, but not a duty to investigate:

"Nothing in this section shall be construed to impose a duty to investigate observed or reasonably suspected  

 

NH

 

NH ST 644:8

 

 

A veterinarian licensed to practice in the state

 

No duty

 

Held harmless from either criminal or civil liability for any decisions made for services rendered under the provisions of this section Veterinarian under this paragraph protected from a lawsuit for his part in an investigation of cruelty to animals

 

 

 

NY

 

NY EDUC § 6714

 

 

Veterinarian

 

Voluntary reporting

 

When a veterinarian reasonably and in good faith suspects that a companion animal's injury, illness or condition is the result of animal cruelty, the veterinarian may report the incident and disclose records concerning the companion animal's condition

 

 

A veterinarian who reasonably and in good faith reports or discloses records shall be immune from liability in the form of damages in any civil or criminal proceeding on account of such reporting or disclosure

 

 

NC

 

NC ST § 14-360.1

 

 

Any veterinarian licensed in this State

 

Implied voluntary reporting

 A failure by a veterinarian to make a report of animal cruelty shall not constitute grounds for disciplinary action under G.S. 90-187.8.

 

 

Reasonable cause to believe that an animal has been the subject of animal cruelty and who makes a report of animal cruelty, or who participates in any investigation or testifies shall be immune from civil liability, criminal liability, and liability from professional disciplinary action

 

Shall not be in breach of any veterinarian-patient confidentiality, unless the veterinarian acted in bad faith or with a malicious purpose.

 

Rebuttable presumption that the veterinarian acted in good faith

 

 

ND

 

ND ST 36-21.1-14

 

 

Any sheriff, police officer, licensed veterinarian, investigator, or person who has custody of an animal under this chapter and who is acting in an official or professional capacity

 

 

No duty

 

Provision only relates when veterinarian has taken custody of the animal

 

 

Makes a good-faith effort to comply with this chapter is immune from any civil or criminal liability for acts taken or omitted while attempting to comply with this chapter.

 

 

 

OK

 

OK ST T. 21 § 1680.3

 

 

Veterinarian

 

Mandatory duty

 

A veterinarian shall report suspected cases of animal abuse to a local law enforcement agency in the county where the veterinarian is practicing within 24 hours of examination or treatment which the veterinarian reasonably suspects and believes has been abused

 

 

A veterinarian who files a report as provided in this section shall be immune from civil liability with respect to any report made in good faith

 

 

Report must be made within 24 hours of examination

 

The report shall contain the breed and description of the animal together with the name and address of the owner.

 

 

OR

 

OR ST § 686.442

 

and

 

OR ST § 686.445

 

 

 

A veterinarian or veterinary technician for immunity

 

Veterinarian for duty

 

Mandatory duty for veterinarians to report aggravated cruelty

 

 

Voluntary duty for veterinarians and technicians to report abandonment, neglect, or abuse

 

 

 

Licensed veterinarians and veterinary technicians may report to peace officers, animal control officers or officers of private organizations devoted to humane treatment of animals any animal that the veterinarian or veterinary technician knows or reasonably believes to be abandoned, neglected or abused. Any veterinarian or veterinary technician making a report under this section is immune from any civil or criminal liability by reason of making the report

 

 

 

RI

 

RI ST 4-1-37

 

 

Any Rhode Island licensed veterinarian

 

No duty

 

Shall be held harmless from either criminal or civil liability arising out of any reports, either oral or written concerning any animal that the veterinarian knows or reasonably believed to be abandoned, neglected, or abused, and shall be immune from suit by reason of making the report

 

 

Veterinarian who participates or reports in bad faith or with malice shall not be protected under the provisions of this section

 

 

TX

 

TX OCC § 801.3585

 

 

A veterinarian

 

No duty

 

A veterinarian who in good faith and in the normal course of business reports to the appropriate governmental entity a suspected incident of animal cruelty is immune from liability in a civil or criminal action brought against the veterinarian for reporting the incident

 

 

 

UT

 

UT ST § 58-28-602

 

 

A licensed veterinarian

 

No duty

 

In good faith and in the normal course of business, reports a suspected case of animal cruelty to law enforcement or the proper authorities is immune from liability in any civil or criminal action brought against the veterinarian for reporting the suspected cruelty

 

 

 

VA

 

VA ST § 54.1-3812.1

 

 

Veterinarian

 

No duty

 

Immunity from civil or criminal liability or administrative penalty/ sanction for providing records or information or testifying in cases of suspected cruelty unless done in bad faith or with malicious purpose

 

 

Includes administrative penalty in immunity provision

 

VT

 

VT ST T. 26 § 2404

 

 

Veterinarian licensed to practice in this state

 

No duty

 

No monetary liability/no cause of action for damages shall arise against, a veterinarian who, in good faith and in the normal course of practice, reports suspected cases of cruelty to animals, to any humane officer or local board of health officer or agent

 

Also immunity for accompanying a humane officer

 

 

Immunity limited to "monetary damages" in the statute

 

WI

 

WI ST 173.12

 

 

Veterinarian

 

Mandatory duty to report animal fighting

 

Any veterinarian who has reason to believe that an animal has been in a fight shall report the matter to the local humane officer or to a local law enforcement agency. The report shall be in writing and shall include a description and the location of the animal, any injuries suffered by the animal and the name and address of the owner or person in charge of the animal, if known

 

 

 

 

WV

 

WV ST § 7-10-4a

 

 

Licensed veterinarian

 

(also the right of any other person to voluntarily report)

 

Mandatory duty

 

Duty of any licensed veterinarian and the right of any other person to report to a humane officer any animal found, reasonably known or believed to be abandoned, neglected or cruelly treated

 

 

Such veterinarian or other person may not be subject to any civil or criminal liability as a result of such reporting

 

Duty and immunity provision covers animals that have been abandoned, neglected, or cruelly treated

 

 

 

 

 

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