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Veterinarians and Their Perception of the Treatment of Animal Abuse Cases in the Criminal Justice System

By Dustin A. Richardson

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Americans love their companion animals. In 2015, nearly two-thirds (65%) of all households in the U.S. housed at least one pet (APPA, n.d.). This love does not translate to policy, however, as many animals are left defenseless. Interestingly, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (2016) has ranked Illinois’ animal protection laws as the strongest in the nation for the last eight years. Extant animal abuse research is almost exclusively concerned with the ramifications that the abuse has for humans, and there is a dearth of social science research that examines veterinarians and the criminal justice system. Extremely limited research on this subject suggests that veterinarians are not satisfied with how the criminal justice system handles reports of animal abuse.

The current study was designed to explore veterinarians’ familiarity with animal abuse and experience with the criminal justice system. The researcher was particularly interested in whether veterinarians were satisfied with the criminal justice system’s response to animal abuse. Additionally, the study explored what these individuals believed an appropriate response to animal abuse would consist of. There were not any hypotheses as the research was meant to be purely exploratory.

To achieve these goals, the researcher conducted semi-structured qualitative interviews with veterinarians. Participants were recruited by way of a convenience sampling procedure with McLean County, Illinois serving as the research site. Findings indicate that veterinarians seldom encounter animal abuse, and they interact with the criminal justice system even less frequently. The interactions they have had with the criminal justice system have not been pleasant, with every participant being left unsatisfied after participating in criminal cases. If these veterinarians had their way, the criminal justice system would take animal abuse more seriously and punish animal abusers more harshly.


Mason N McLary

HABRI Central

Date 2017
Pages 89
Publisher Illinois State University
Location of Publication Normal, Illinois
Department Criminal Justice Sciences
Degree Criminology
Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal abuse
  2. Animal-assisted activities
  3. Animal roles
  4. Criminal justice
  5. Law and legal issues
  6. Pet ownership
  7. Pets and companion animals
  8. Policy and Planning
  9. Social sciences
  10. Veterinary profession