Assessment of unnecessary suffering by veterinary experts

Helena Baumgaertner, Siobhan M Mullan, David C J Main

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
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Veterinary surgeons are often asked to provide reports to courts describing factual observations and their expertopinion on the presence or absence of unnecessary suffering in animals. This study reviewed 42 expert witness reports in order to describe the approach taken to the assessment of unnecessary suffering. Whilst most reports suitably described factual observations, there was significant variation in the opinions on suffering and the actions of the owner. Severity and duration of potential suffering was commented upon in 26 and 29 reports respectively. Experts used terms associated with negative mental states and physical states in 28 and 27 reports respectively. The necessity of suffering was commented upon in 27 reports, with minimal commentary on theactions of the owner. External references supporting the opinion of the expert was only provided in 13 reports. There was evidence of disputes between experts concerning the definition of suffering, the significance of clinical findings and the relevance of different assessment methods. It is suggested that expert witness reports should include a systematic consideration of the animal’s mental and physical states, severity of harm, duration of harm and a commentary on the necessity of suffering as defined by legislation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number307
Number of pages6
JournalVeterinary Record
Issue number12
Early online date28 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016


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