Veterinarian challenges to providing a multi-agency response to farm animal welfare problems in Ireland: responding to the human factor
Rev Sci Tech Off Int Epizoot
In 2012, the authors undertook a study of the challenges facing government and private veterinarians in responding to the human element of farm animal welfare incidents (i.e. the personal problems and difficulties of farmers that can result in farm animal neglect). This paper reports their findings and examines the role of veterinarians in responding to the difficulties of farmers. It also looks at their experiences of attempting to build a multi-agency approach involving veterinary and human
... erinary and human support services. This paper builds on a study whereby the authors considered how social, health and attitudinal factors, as well as mental health problems, contribute to farm animal welfare incidents in Ireland. An early warning system involving relevant agencies is in place to identify and prevent farm animal welfare problems before they become critical. The literature provides examples of private veterinarians combining with support services where there are indicators of animal and human abuse. Yet there are no research examples of government or private veterinarians linking with support services to resolve farm animal welfare cases where there are social, health, and/or mental health difficulties with the herd owner. Four focus groups were conducted with government veterinarians (n = 18) and three with private veterinarians (n = 12). Government veterinarians made contact with support services to seek advice on how best to respond to the human element of farm animal welfare incidents, and/or to seek support for the herd owner. Contact between government and private veterinarians was driven by the former. Communication between agencies was influenced by individual efforts and personal contacts. Formal structures and guidelines, perceived professional capabilities in determining herd owner needs, and client confidentiality concerns among support services and private veterinarians were less influential. The fear of losing clients and the financial implications of this were also cited by private veterinarians. Family, neighbours and local support groups assisted in reaching an on-farm solution. The paper concludes with the requirements for a multi-agency approach in Ireland: the provision of tailored information and guidelines targeting government and private veterinarians and support services, and a comprehensive structure for relationship-building, planning, and cross-reporting between all the relevant agencies.