HIPPAA Dilemma: Pt Privacy vs. Suffering Animal

Nurses General Nursing


You are reading page 2 of HIPPAA Dilemma: Pt Privacy vs. Suffering Animal


205 Posts

As an animal rights activist, I find this situation disturbing in many ways.

In homes where there is violence, non human animals are usually the first to suffer because the abuser generally abuses the non human family first, as a way to threaten and intimidate the other, human family members.

This dog has probably been a victim of physical abuse himself.

The fact that the dog isn't up to date on his shots and rabies license shows neglect. The fact that there isn't water available for the dog also shows neglect.

Someone who can't take care of herself - ie. is in an domestic violence situation - can't possibly take care of another living, sentient being. Not even if it's "only a dog." The dog would probably be better off with someone else, even at a shelter, where at least the dog's basic physical needs will be attended to.

Obviously this woman trusts you all, as her care givers, enough to confess her lack of care for her pet; some where inside, she's probably aware that she can't adequately care for the dog and maybe telling you about this situation is a way of relieving herself of the burden of caring for him.

I hope more than anything that you made the call to the Humane Society or Animal Control. Often times, they won't even pursue anything with the owner; the only goal is to provide for the animal.


226 Posts

At our clinic we had a situation. The patient always smelled of cat urine when she would come in and admitted to having a lot of cats. We called Animal Control and they said the house was over run with cats and unlivable. Not sure what ever came of it though.


467 Posts

i love animals!! i would've offered to go check on the dog myself lol

leslie :-D

11,191 Posts

there are times that i react stronger towards the distressed animal(s) than i do for man.

when i've been called an "animal" in the past, i'm beginning to think there may be some validity to what they say.:paw:



467 Posts

i agree with leslie!! i feel so compassionate towards animals because they need to be cared for - they MUST have advocates to stand up for them, no matter what. now i'm in the mood to donate to peta!! :)

Thanks for all the responses to the question.

I wish I knew what the outcome was with the animal. I felt so helpless while waiting for instructions from the house supervisor. In the past, I had gone to patients' home to check on their animals. One patient was very grateful and she mentioned this on her exit survey. Well, I caught hell for that. Big lecture on liability and boundaries.

Anyhow, it's not so simple to call anonymously; Caller ID shows the hospital calling, and furthermore they require a name to accept the complaint.

I thought about asking my boyfriend to call from another phone, but then I would have to reveal to him patient information.

I think today I will try to look up the contact number and see what the outcome was. Last I knew, the man who beat the patient had not yet been caught, and the patient had not made it back home when discharged.

I'll update you if I find out anything.

Thanks again.


1,975 Posts

Make a call from a pay phone and say an animal is in distress. Period. They will go out. I know people who have done this before and someone always showed up at the house to check on the animal.

This isn't a HIPAA violation. You aren't sharing any medical info. Please don't let a poor defenseless animal suffer.


3 Posts

I'mfrom the UK but here, you can break patient confidentiality if a law has been broken; and animal cruelty/neglect is against the law as I'm sure is the case in America.

As others have said, an anonymous call to the relevant authorities would be better than nothing if you are afraid of comeback. Personally I would have notified them against her wishes anyway, or at least guilt tripped this woman into giving you permission to do so.

I have been in this situation, but involving humans and I had no hesitation in contacting the authorities, despite possible comeback. I would rather lose my job than deal with the guilt of being implicated in a case of abuse or neglect.

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