Q: Can a veterinary medicine paper be published without informed consent of animal owner?

Detailed Question -

My field is veterinary medicine, and I found the following sentence in the journal to which I am going to submit my paper.

For studies using client-owned animals, demonstrates a high standard (best practice) of veterinary care and involves informed client consent;

I understand the necessity of getting an informed consent, since animal owners would be able to identify their own animals easily, though other people may not identify the animals by only pictures. However, what should I do when the subject animal is already dead or when I cannot contact the owner any more for the case since it has been a long time. If I cannot get the informed consent, do I have no choice but to give up submission?

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Answer:

Informed consent for privately owned animals is mandatory for most journals in the field of veterinary medicine. You have not mentioned what kind of a study you are trying to publish. For clinical trials, the rules regarding informed consent of the owner would probably be more strict. However, if you are going to publish a case report or an observational study, the rules may be slightly more flexible.

Generally, informed consent is supposed to be taken prior to the study. Therefore, the argument that the animal is dead or that the owner could not be contacted because a long time has passed may not hold. I think the best course of action would be to write to the journal editor and tell him about your problem, explaining the reason why you had not taken written informed consent from the animal owner prior to the study. If you were not aware of this rule when you conducted the study, say so. It is best to be honest, and seek the editor's help in this regard.