Maryland Legislation Requires Vets to Report Animal Cruelty

Legislation is a critical means for animal rights activists to enshrine animal protection in the law. This week, legislators in the US State of Maryland passed legislations requiring veterinarians to report animal cruelty.

dog on leash sad animal crueltySome may not see this legislation as a significant step forward. After all, cruelty to companion animals is already recognized as felony. But I think it represents an important shift in the legislative view of animals.

This law helps place companion animals on a legislative footing similar to human children

Most of you are undoubtedly aware that family physicians (as well as social workers, teachers, and a number of other professionals) are required by law to report suspected cases of child abuse. This law provides similar protections for companion animals.

In an interview with CBS Baltimore, Dr. Rhonda Smetana, a veterinarian at Basin Run Animal Hospital summarized the significance of the law: “it takes the weight of our shoulders and the decision making so that way it’s very similar to human physicians where they will report any type of suspicious abuse.”

Reporting animal cruelty is now compulsory

Prior to this legislation, vets were often unsure whether or not they should be reporting on suspected cases of abuse. Now, vets must report. This is regardless of the circumstances surrounding suspected abuse (and vets don’t have to be certain, either). H.B. 1463 requires veterinarians to report animal cruelty. This bill echoes legislation that requires doctors or teachers to report human child abuse. The law is a major victory for the Maryland ASPCA, and a reward for their dedication to pursuing animal protection legislation.

Laws like this are why I support some single issue animal rights campaigns

Abolitionist vegans don’t believe in single issue campaigns. But this is precisely the sort of legislation that is most effective. Rather than simply attempting to improve conditions for companion animals, it reminds the public that these animals deserve protection. Also, given the symmetry between this legislation and that designed to protect children, it may have the power to shift public perception of animals as well.

What do you think? Join the conversation!

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