THE Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons Section 14.13 Animal Abuse advises that non-accidental injury (commonly referred to as animal abuse) should be included in the veterinary surgeon's differential diagnosis when an injured animal is presented with clinical signs that cannot be attributed to the history provided by the client.

Vets are warned that if they have concerns over animal and human welfare there are several factors to take into account: Are they concerned about a person as well as the animal?

They should decide whether they are faced with a victim or a perpetrator (this is absolutely vital).

And do they feel threatened by the adult in consultation with you?

But what about abuse of vets?

It first happened to me many years ago.

I was helping a Lhasa Apso give birth when I realised it was just not going to happen.

It transpired that the owner had decided it would be a good idea to mate his lovely, soft, fluffy bitch with a big, muscular Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

The inevitable outcome was that the still-in-the-womb puppy was nearly bigger than its mum and quite unable to be borne by natural means through the birth canal.

Contrary to popular belief, the term Caesarean section does not originate from Julius Caesar having been removed from his mother in this way, but a history lesson was far from my mind when I approached my expectant mother’s owner to tell him the bad news.

I remembered to print out an anaesthetic consent form that was designed to protect me from subsequent legal action.

My intrepid owner (who turned out to be as muscle bound as the pup’s sire) stared at the typed A4 paper for what seemed like an eternity (I don’t actually think he could read).

Eventually, he picked it up and flung it back at me. ‘Look!’ he growled. ‘The deal is simple!’ ‘If the dug dies, you die too!’

The air between us turned a little icy. Our eyes locked. He blinked. I didn’t. I had no option but do as the Veterinary Defence Society had carefully instructed us and respectfully tell him that his threat, indeed his intimidating behaviour, was unacceptable and would not be tolerated.

In the heat of the moment, however, the words came out all wrong and I heard myself telling him that a lot of people a lot bigger and a lot tougher than him had threatened me before and it was all water off a duck’s back.

He leant forward, so that he dangerously invaded my space, and growled again, quieter this time, but more forceful. ‘Aye. But they probably didn’t mean it. I do!’

Fast forward some years and a ‘Voice of the Profession’ survey carried out by the British Veterinary Association, paints a bleak picture.

More than 80 per cent of vets said that they or a team member had felt intimidated by a client’s language or behaviour, with support staff, such as receptionists, often bearing the brunt of tirades.

Given the job we do and why we do it, that’s really not acceptable. (And my wee Lhasa Apso bitch? She lived. Obviously!)