The Links Group and BSAVA to host veterinary training on non-accidental injury and domestic abuse

26 January 2023

The Links Group and the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) are hosting a training day on recognising and acting on non-accidental injuries and understanding the link between animal abuse and domestic abuse. The training will take place 2nd February 2023 at the Dunadry Hotel & Gardens, Antrim, and is open to large, small and equine veterinary teams.

The session is in partnership with the North of Ireland Veterinary Association (NIVA) and the Association of Veterinary Surgeons Practising in Northern Ireland (AVSPNI) and supported by the British Veterinary Association NI Branch and the Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF). It will cover the complexity of abuse and the impact of domestic abuse on children, as well as how to recognise abuse/non-accidental injury in animals, how to document vital information, and importantly, what to do when dealing with disclosure from a human victim of abuse.

The session will also provide guidance on setting up a practice protocol and identifying a practice links adviser who will assist those involved in the veterinary team to manage suspected cases of abuse. Through the link adviser, effective relationships with local authority welfare officers, police domestic abuse officers and aid agencies should be set up so that vets have expert support when they suspect animal or human abuse.

In light of Northern Ireland’s Department of Justice and Department of Health’s Domestic and Sexual Abuse Strategy and the Executive Office’s Equally Safe Strategy – A Strategy to Tackle Violence Against Women and Girls, alongside the PSNI’s Violence Against Women and Girls Action Plan, there will be representatives from the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and the Executive Office attending, as well as DAERA and the presidents of the NIVA/BVA NI, AVSPNI and BSAVA. The Lady Chief Justice will be represented by DJ (MC) McElholm.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Detective Superintendent Lindsay Fisher – Public Protection Branch, PSNI
  • Marie Brown – CEO Foyle Family Justice Centre
  • Sarah Mason – CEO of Women’s Aid Federation NI
  • Sonya McMullan – Regional Services Manager, Women’s Aid NI
  • Ineke Houtenbos – Senior Training & Development Consultant NSPCC NI
  • Neal Gartland – Director of Animal Health and Welfare Policy, DAERA
  • David Martin – Group Animal Welfare Advisor at IVC Evidensia and veterinary expert witness
  • Paula Boyden – Veterinary Director at Dogs Trust and Links Group Chair
  • Vicki Betton – Communications Director at BVA and Links Group Vice-Chair

Vicki Betton, Vice-Chair of The Links Group says: “We’re thrilled to be rolling out our programme of in-person training days with BSAVA. This event in Belfast is the first time The Links Group has been able to offer this full day of training in Northern Ireland, and we’re looking forward to exploring the most effective ways veterinary teams can recognise and act on suspected cases of non-accidental injury or disclosures of domestic or child abuse.

“It’s a difficult subject for many to even consider, but with reported cases of domestic abuse reaching an all-time high during the pandemic, its essential that teams are aware of the issue and have a practice protocol in place for if they feel something isn’t quite right with a case.”

This is the post-Covid relaunch of the series of 12 Links Veterinary Training Initiative days, based on BSAVA’s regional network. Five happened before Covid, with six more due to be delivered after this one until June 2024; one in Wales and the remaining five in regions across England.

For more information and to book your place on the Northern Ireland training day, visit the BSAVA website here:  This training is free to BSAVA, NIVA and AVSPNI members. Booking for non-members is £50 inc. VAT.

For more information on The Links Group, visit the website here: