VETS are to join hairdressers and dentists on the frontline of defence against domestic violence as the Scottish Government aims to enlist 100,000 professionals.

Set up by Medics Against Violence and the Violence Reduction Unit, the Ask, Validate Document and Refer (AVDR) programme trains beauticians, firefighters and other non-emergency workers to spot the signs of domestic violence.

Currently 2,000 people have been given the training, which also teaches them how to help victims access support.

Now the organisers aim to reach 100,000 professionals thanks to Scottish Government funding.

Announcing the funding at a veterinary surgery in Glasgow yesterday, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: “Domestic violence is a scourge on Scottish society and this government is determined to do all it can to eradicate it.

“The work already done by Medics Against Violence has been truly fantastic and I am keen that, as a government, we provide this additional funding to expand it right across Scotland.”

The AVDR project was developed by oral surgery consultant Dr Christine Goodall, founder of Medics Against Violence, after years of studying the link between facial and dental injuries and violence.

The work has now expanded to include veterinary surgeons after researchers established a clear link between animal cruelty and domestic abuse.

Work by University College Dublin on women using refuge services in Ireland found 57 per cent of those questioned had witnessed abuse or threats of abuse against their pets, with some incidents ending in the death of the animals.

Another study conducted in the UK showed 66 per cent of women suffering domestic violence had threats of violence or abuse of their pets from their abuser.

Domestic abuse is thought to have cost Scotland £2.3 billion in 2013, and several distressing incidents of animal cruelty linked to the problem have been reported to Medics Against Violence.

The ex-partner of one woman stabbed her cat to death with a pen, and during a physical attack on one woman in front of her children, the perpetrator hung the family pet from a light fitting.

Other reports include animals frozen, burned and microwaved to death.

The £115,000 announced yesterday will be provided alongside the £956,000 annual grant already awarded to the Violence Reduction Unit.

Vet Dr Karen Campbell took part in AVDR training after being asked by the SSPCA to carry out a post mortem on the dog of one of her clients.

She said: “The poor animal had been kicked to death. Its liver was in shreds and it had bled out.

“It would have been a slow and painful death for the animal. I’ll always remember the SSPCA inspector, who visited the dog’s home, described it as a ‘house of violence’. Both the partner and the dog had been abused.

“I was really shocked and upset by the incident and wanted to do something to stop this happening.

“It’s about knowing how to safely intervene without putting either the client or yourself at risk, because we all have a duty to help if we suspect someone is being abused.”

Dr Goodall said: “ Our wish is that supporting victims of domestic abuse becomes an expectation and that victims know if they approach a doctor, dentist, nurse, social worker, vet, fire officer or hairdresser for help they will get it.”

Dr Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, welcomed the roll-out, saying: “We welcome anything that spreads accountability and that improves the likelihood that women and children will be encouraged to disclose domestic abuse, and helps ensure that they get the help they need when they need it.”