Reporting of suspected dog fighting to the police, RSPCA and equivalents by veterinary professionals in the UK

Milroy, K and Whiting, M and Abeyesinghe, S M (2018) Reporting of suspected dog fighting to the police, RSPCA and equivalents by veterinary professionals in the UK. VETERINARY RECORD, 183 (567).

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Abstract

Dog fighting became unlawful in the UK in 1835, yet it continues today (as reported by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and Crown Prosecution Service), although with an unknown prevalence. We used an online questionnaire to (1) determine the occurrence of dogs suspected of use in fighting in UK veterinary practices; (2) explore relative reporting of incidents to police, RSPCA or equivalent charity by registered veterinary nurses (RVN) and veterinarians; and (3) determine factors influencing reporting. Emails (n=2493) containing the questionnaire were sent to UK veterinary practices: 423 questionnaires (159 by RVNs, 264 by veterinarians) were completed. One or more cases of dog fighting were suspected by 14.4 per cent of respondents in 2015; 182 cases suspected in total. Proportionately more RVNs suspected dog fighting than veterinarians (P=0.0009). Thirty-two respondents (7.6 per cent, n=422) claimed to have reported suspicions to the police, the RSPCA or equivalent charity previously; 59 respondents (14.2 per cent) had previously chosen not to. Reasons not to report included: uncertainty of illegal activity (81.4 per cent), fear of the client not returning to the practice (35.6 per cent) and concerns regarding client confidentiality (22.0 per cent). Further work is required to address under-reporting of dog fighting by veterinary professionals.