Equine Welfare and Abuse Reporting

Reporting Equine Abuse

Veterinarians are now required to report suspected cases of companion animal abuse and neglect.

But what is considered abuse? How and where do you report?

The NYSVMS Equine Welfare committee has put together the answers.


Don’t miss our list of key equine welfare resources below


Horse's eye

Equine Welfare Resources

The NYSVMS Equine Committee has compliled the following resources to help veterinarians find key information.

Sports Horses in the United States

Richard Mitchell, DVM, MRCVS, Dipl. ACVSMR


An Illustrated Guide to the Ridden Horse Pain Ethogram or Ridden Horse Performance Checklist

Dr. Anne Bondi BHSI BHSAPC PGDip DProf and Dr. Sue Dyson MA VetMB PhD DEO

Myth Busters: Is your horse in pain?  Or being a pain?

Dr. Sue Dyson MA VetMB PhD DEO

Social Licence to Operate: What Can Equestrian Sports Learn from Other Industries?

Janet Douglas,  Roly Owers and Madeleine L. H. Campbell

The Ultimate Guide for Horses in Need

Stacie G. Boswell, DVM, DACVS-LA

Equine Welfare Resources

American Association of Equine Practitioners

Reporting Equine Abuse: Key Points

WHO: The veterinarian must report

WHAT: Mandated reporting of animal cruelty in NYS

Veterinarians are now required to report suspected cases of companion animal abuse and neglect. Given current husbandry practices, most horses that live in New York are now classified as companion animals, not farm animals. (see the legal definitions in the FAQ). This gives veterinarians the same type of legal protection from liability and confidentiality that are usual for mandated reporters of abuse.

WHERE TO REPORT:  National Link Coalition https://nationallinkcoalition.org/

WHEN: Report a case as soon as you have documentation that a horse is at risk.


  1. You may be the only person seeing that animal in the course of the year
  2. Protects humans… “numerous studies have demonstrated the connection between animal maltreatment and interpersonal violence including child abuse, elder abuse and domestic violence.”


  1. HAVE A PLAN in advance
  2. Keep detailed medical records
  3. Take numerous photos and videos of animals, environment etc (this is critical)
  4. Understand the role of the veterinarian in abuse and neglect cases
  5. Be familiar with available resources. Most resources below are available for free to NYSVMS members and non-members
  6. Build relationships with law enforcement in advance


    Reporting Equine Abuse: Frequently Asked Questions

    The following guide has been prepared by the NYSVMS Equine Committee

    What is the new mandatory reporting law in NYS and why is it good for vets?

    The new law can be found at https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2021/s5023

    This legislation changes the law that covers veterinary reporting of suspected animal abuse and neglect.  Previous language dictated that veterinarians were “allowed” to report these situations.  The new language now requires reporting of these cases.

    This new law protects the veterinarian so they can do the right thing.

    Veterinarians reporting abuse:

    • Can remain anonymous
    • Are indemnified against any liability
    • Can release medical records without owner permission

    What is the new Section 6714 of Article 135 of the Education law?

    2. A veterinarian licensed pursuant to this article, may disclose records, as defined in this section, concerning a companion animal as defined in section three hundred fifty of the agriculture and markets law which has received treatment by such veterinarian without the consent of the companion animal’s owner under the following circumstances:

    (a) When a veterinarian reasonably and in good faith suspects that a companion animal’s injury, illness or condition is the result of animal cruelty in violation of section three hundred fifty-one, three hundred fifty-three or three hundred fifty-three-a of the agriculture and markets law, the veterinarian shall report the incident and disclose records concerning the companion animal’s condition and treatment to any officer or agent authorized pursuant to sections three hundred seventy-one and three hundred seventy-three of the agriculture and markets law to respond to and investigate complaints of animal cruelty.

    The identity of such veterinarian making a report pursuant to this paragraph shall only be made available to an officer or agent authorized pursuant to section three hundred seventy-one or three hundred seventy-three of the agriculture and markets law.

    (b) When a veterinarian reasonably believes that disclosure of records as defined in this section, is necessary to protect the health or welfare of a companion animal, a person or the public, the veterinarian may disclose such records to any officer or agent authorized pursuant to sections three hundred seventy-one and three hundred seventy-three of the agriculture and markets law to respond to and investigate complaints of animal cruelty. The identity of such veterinarian making a disclosure of records pursuant to this paragraph shall only be made available to an officer or agent authorized pursuant to section three hundred seventy-one or three hundred seventy-three of the agriculture and markets law.

    (c) Any such veterinarian who reports an incident or discloses records concerning a companion animal’s condition and treatment pursuant to paragraph (a) or (b) of this subdivision shall be entitled to receive and be provided with, at no cost to such veterinarian, written or electronic documentation of such report by the agent or officer to whom such report was made. Such report shall include but not be limited to the date such report was made, the identity of the individual against whom such report was made, the species and description of the animal about which such report was made, the nature of the injuries to the animal and the name and license number of the veterinarian who made such report.

    How does the new law impact equine veterinarians?

    A horse can fall under the category of being a companion animal depending on the circumstances.

    Is a horse a companion animal or farm animal?

    Most horses in private ownership are included under the definition of companion animal below. The exceptions include horses raised for any other commercial purposes.

    • The New York State Agriculture and Markets Laws provides the legal definitions in section 350.
    • § 350 (5) “Companion animal” or “pet” means any dog or cat, and shall also mean any other domesticated animal normally maintained in or near the household of the owner or person who cares for such other domesticated animal. “Pet” or “companion animal” shall not include a “farm animal” as defined in this section.
    • Farm animal” as used in this article, means any ungulate, poultry, species of cattle, sheep, swine, goats, llamas, horses, or fur-bearing animals, as defined in section 11-1907 of the environmental conservation law, which are raised for commercial or subsistence purposes.  Fur-bearing animal shall not include dogs or cats.
    • “Torture or “cruelty” includes every act, omission, or neglect, whereby unjustifiable physical pain, suffering or death is caused or permitted.


    Why should I report suspected abuse or neglect?

    • The veterinarian may be the only outside person who sees the horses/animals who are at risk or in eminent danger.
    • Animal abuse is a sentinel indicator and often the first sign of other family and community violence. Reporting animal abuse could save the lives of other animals in the household, family members, and members of the greater community. Learn more.
    • The Veterinarian’s Oath:

     Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge…

    • It is the right thing to do!


    How do I identify abuse, neglect and cruelty?

    1. Neglect: lack of care, often resulting from ignorance, poverty, or extenuating circumstances. Usually results in a failure to provide the basic necessities of life: adequate levels of food, water, shelter, veterinary care, grooming, or sanitation resulting in poor physical conditions. Neglect is the most common form of animal maltreatment investigated by animal protection authorities.
    2. Animal abuse: more willful failing to provide care or doing something harmful. Abuse implies maltreatment occurred regardless of the intent, motivation or mental condition of the perpetrator, whereas cruelty connotes more deliberate intention.
    3. Animal cruelty: The common term used in animal anti-cruelty statutes and societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals. Although legal definitions vary by jurisdiction, several popular definitions have been disseminated. These include: any act that, by intention or by neglect, causes an animal unnecessary pain or suffering (Sinclair, Merck & Lockwood, 2006). Or: deliberate infliction of pain on an animal from which the abuser derives enjoyment or amusement (King 1998). Or: the infliction of pain or distress unnecessarily (Blood & Studdert, 1999). Or: socially unacceptable behaviour that intentionally causes unnecessary pain, suffering, or distress to and/ or death of an animal (Ascione, 1993).
    4. For more information visit –https://ebusiness.avma.org/Files/ProductDownloads/AVMA%20Suspected%20Animal%20Cruelty.pdf

    I am unsure if I should file a report. Is there anyone I could speak with who could help me to make this determination?

    AAEP provides a Welfare Mentorship Program. Veterinarians experienced in equine welfare are available to guide you through the process of reporting and testifying (must be an AAEP member).

    Contact Sally Baker at AAEP, sbaker@aaep.org, (859)233-0147 or (800)443-0177

    What information should I gather prior to filing a report?

    Prepare a detailed report of your medical and environmental findings. All medical records must be in order as they will be shared with authorities. Photographs and videos of the horses and the environment and a detailed record of client communication are vital to accurately document your findings and support your case. Refer to https://aaep.org/owner-guidelines/equine-welfare

    Who should I report to?

    The authority to report animal abuse to varies with jurisdiction. In some areas of NYS you report directly to law enforcement and in other areas you report to the local humane society. 

    The link below can direct you to the correct authority in your area.


    What resources are available if the abuse is due to a lack of education?

    A variety of resources are available if a case is determined to be due to a lack of education.

    What resources are available if horse health is compromised due to financial hardship?

    AEEP offers a program that can cover up to $600 of veterinary care.


    Contact Sue Stivers at sstivers@aaep.org or (859) 233-0147

    I am worried about negative repercussions if I file a report. What measures are in place to protect me and my practice?

    1. Reporting animal abuse is anonymous.
    2. You are legally allowed to share your medical records with authorities without the permission of the owner.
    3. There is indemnity for good faith reporting so the veterinarian is not liable.


    I feel unsafe going to a farm. What should I do?

    The safety and welfare of the veterinarian is paramount and comes first and foremost. Ask a law enforcement officer to accompany you to the farm. If this is not an option DO NOT GO but report your concerns to the appropriate authorities.

    What if the need to report is urgent?

    What if there is a situation where the horse requires immediate euthanasia and the owner refuses to do so? In a case like this you should immediately report the case to obtain resolution as soon as possible.

    I just cared for an abused horse living in deplorable conditions and I am having a hard time emotionally dealing with the challenges that accompany the case. Is there help for me?

    1. The NYSVMS offers 3 complimentary counseling sessions for veterinarians, their family members and staff 24/7  https://nysvms.org/wellbeing-2/
    2. AAEP also offers resources at https://aaep.org/wellness
    3. AVMA resources can be found at https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/wellbeing

      Law enforcement in my region is not as knowledgeable about equine welfare. Is there anything I can do to help increase their awareness?

      Building a relationship with law enforcement prior to reporting cases of abuse is beneficial. The AAEP Abuse and Neglect Subcommittee has prepared a PowerPoint Presentation that you can use to educate law enforcement in your area.https://aaep.org/owner-guidelines/equine-welfare

      Where can I learn more about animal laws in NYS?

      For guidance on NY State laws contact us.

      For legal information pertaining to your specific case it is best to contact an attorney specializing in animal law.

      You can also learn more from the New York State Bar Association https://nysba.org/legalease-animal-law-in-new-york-state/

      What are the most comprehensive resources for navigating a welfare case?

      What resources are available that can assist me in preparing a report?

      The AAEP Welfare Webpage has all of the info needed to prepare you for working through a welfare case https://aaep.org/owner-guidelines/equine-welfare

      The AAEP offers the Equine Welfare Mentorship Program where members can receive complimentary guidance from veterinarians who have experience navigating equine welfare cases. Sally Baker is the AAEP staff liaison for this program. She can be contacted by email sbaker@aaep.org or by phone 859-223-0147.

      Where can I learn more?

      1. AAEP Welfare https://aaep.org/owner-guidelines/equine-welfare
      2. Animal Law in NYS 2018 Pamphlet https://nysba.org/NYSBA/Publications/LegalEASE%20Pamphlet%20Series/PUB_LegalEase_Animal%20Law_2018.pdf
      3. Animal Legal Defense Fund https://aldf.org
      4. ASPCA https://www.aspcapro.org/resource/sample-documents-cruelty-cases
      5. AVMA Animal Abuse Resources for Veterinarians https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/animal-health-and-welfare/animal-welfare/animal-abuse-resources-veterinarians
      6. AVMA Equid Welfare https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/animal-health-and-welfare/animal-welfare-equids
      7. A Home For Every Horse https://ahomeforeveryhorse.com/
      8. Homes for Horses Coalition https://homesforhorses.org/
      9. The Humane Society of the United States https://humanepro.org/topics/horses-equines
      10. Justice Clearinghouse https://www.justiceclearinghouse.com/
      11. University of Florida Online Graduate Programs https://vetforensics.med.ufl.edu/
      12. National Link Coalition https://nationallinkcoalition.org/
      13. New York State Bar Association https://nysba.org/legalease-animal-law-in-new-york-state/
      14. Ohio Veterinary Medical Association Animal Abuse https://www.ohiovma.org/veterinarians/resources/abuse.html
      15. Practical Guidance for the Effective Response by Veterinarians to Suspected Animal Cruelty, Abuse and Neglect https://ebusiness.avma.org/Files/ProductDownloads/AVMA%20Suspected%20Animal%20Cruelty.pdf
      16. The Right Horse Initiative https://www.therighthorse.org/
      17. Unwanted Horse Veterinary Relief Campaign https://aaep.org/horse-owners/unwanted-horse-veterinary-relief-campaign
      18. Vet Direct Safety Net https://aaep.org/horse-owners/vet-direct-safety-net
      19. Veterinary Forensics Consulting, LLC http://www.veterinaryforensics.com/
      20. Virginia Association of Equine Practitioners Equine Forensics Programhttps://www.vetfolio.com/courses/vaep-equine-forensics-program