CSI for Animal Crimes

by Mary Haight on May 16, 2009

ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement Division patch
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When it comes to getting charges to stick, animal cruelty cases have suffered from a lack of evidence for successful prosecution, especially in the violent crimes committed in blood “sports.”  Cases brought to the ASPCA NY alone total 5,000 or more each year, out of which some 300 warrants are issued.

With years of dedicated work of the animal welfare community, many in court advocacy programs, the burgeoning public interest in prosecuting to the fullest extent of evolving animal protection laws has helped focus light on the holes in the systems that need to work together to solve and prosecute cruelty.

The ASPCA has been all too well aware of the dearth of veterinary forensic and toxicology investigators.  Just last year, a partnership with the University of Florida Gainesville presented a conference to what they thought would be less than 50 people on forensic science use in animal cruelty cases.  A couple of hundred people from across the States and nine other countries attended.

Out of this meeting, a committee has been formed to create an International Veterinary Forensic Sciences Association, and a program has been designed that will train animal crime scene investigators.  Seed money of $150,000 followed by three years of support was the commitment made by ASPCA, and with the public interest in and popularity of CSI work, other funding should follow.

It was the investigation performed by Melinda Merck, senior director of veterinary forensics for the ASPCA, that brought the case against Michael Vick to fruition. Merck’s work analyzing the bones of dogs found in mass graves produced proof of hanging, fighting, and bodies being slammed to the ground. This preponderance of evidence corroborated eye witness accounts and forced Vick to confess.

The program begins in 2010 and will be the first of its kind in the US veterinary forensic sciences program.

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  1. […] not as instruments of the crime,” Dr. Randall Lockwood senior vice president of the ASPCA Forensic Sciences and Anti-Cruelty Projects said, referencing “Dog Fighting: The Voiceless Victims” the […]

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