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Veterinary Forensics: Animal Cruelty Investigations, 2nd Edition

Melinda Merck (Editor)

ISBN: 978-0-470-96162-9 December 2012 Wiley-Blackwell 424 Pages



Veterinary Forensics, Second Edition is a practical reference on applying veterinary forensic findings in animal cruelty cases. Now providing a greater focus on findings in animals, the second edition continues to offer guidance with more detailed information on crime scene investigation, forensic testing and findings, handling evidence, and testifying in court. Key changes to the new edition include new chapters on abuse in large animals, poultry, and birds; a standalone chapter on entomology; a new section on large scale cruelty investigation; an expanded section on pain and suffering; more pathology information; and more photos, forms, and information throughout.

Logs and workbooks from the book are available on a companion website at, allowing readers to download, customize, and use these forms in forensics investigations. Veterinary Forensics is an essential resource for veterinarians, pathologists, attorneys, and investigators working on animal abuse cases.

Related Resources

List of Contributors xiii

Foreword xv

Preface xvii

Acknowledgments xix

1 The Legal System: The Veterinarian’s Role and Responsibilities 1

Introduction 1

Defining Animal Cruelty 1

Governing Laws 2

How Veterinarians Become Involved 2

Search and Seizure 7

Handling the Media in Animal Cruelty Cases 7

Confidentiality 7

Filing Criminal Charges and Hearings 8

Non-Criminal Cases 10

Trial 11

Compensation for the Veterinarian 15

Conclusion 16

2 Crime Scene Investigation 17

Introduction 17

The Veterinarian’s Role and Handling of Animals at the Crime Scene 18

General Considerations for Crime Scene Processing 19

Environment: Weather Data 19

Photography and Videography 20

Evidence Recognition and Documentation 21

Evidence Collection and Packaging 23

Exclusionary Biological Testing 24

Blood Evidence 25

Burial Scenes: Grave Detection, Mapping, and Excavation 29

3 CSI: Examination of the Animal 37

General Considerations 37

Determining Non-Accidental Injury 38

Behavioral Considerations of Animals 41

Evidence Documentation, Collection, and Packaging 41

Chain of Custody 41

Photography and Videography 42

Examination and Documentation of the Live Animal 43

External Examination 43

Forensic Necropsy 47

Special Considerations 58

The Forensic Report 62

4 Special Considerations in Animal Cruelty Cases 69

Large Scale Cruelty Cases 69

Trace Evidence 77

Forensic Botany 79

DNA: Deoxyribonucleic Acid 81

Animal Death/Injury in Human Suspicious Death/Injury Cases 83

Other Unique Identifiers of Animals 84

Münchausen Syndrome by Proxy 84

Suffering 86

Pain 90

Suggested Reading on Pain in Animals 95

5 Blunt Force Trauma 97

Overview 97

Bruising/Contusions 98

Abrasions 101

Lacerations 103

Ligature Injuries 103

Avulsion Injuries 104

Fractures 105

Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA) Injuries 106

Fall Injuries 107

Swinging/Dragging Injuries 108

Grooming-Associated Injuries 108

Blunt Force Injuries to Specific Body Regions 109

6 Sharp Force Injuries 123

General Considerations 123

Stab Wounds 124

Incised-Stab Wounds 128

Incised Wounds 128

Chop Wounds 129

Mutilations, Predator Attacks, and Dog Attacks 130

Ritualistic Crimes 134

7 Burn-, Electrical-, and Fire-Related Injuries 139

Interpreting Burn Patterns 139

Recognition and Collection of Evidence 139

Burn Classification 140

Systemic Effects of Burns 141

General Microscopic Examination Findings in Burns 141

Thermal Burns 141

Chemical Burns 144

Electrical Burns 145

Fire-Related Injuries 146

8 Firearm Injuries 151

Introduction 151

Overview of Firearms 151

Wound Ballistics 154

Determining Entrance and Exit Wounds 155

Determining Gunshot Range 158

Examination of Gunshot Victims 165

9 Asphyxia 169

Overview of Asphyxia 169

General Findings in Asphyxia 169

Suffocation 170

Strangulation 172

Mechanical Asphyxia 178

Drowning 178

10 Poisoning 185

Overview of Intentional Poisonings 185

Evidence and History 186

Diagnostics 188

Agents Used in Animal Poisonings 190

Summary 204

11 Neglect 207

Introduction 207

Environment Examination 208

Malnutrition: Improper Feeding 209

Malnutrition: Starvation 210

Animal Hoarders and Animal Sanctuaries 219

Puppy Mills 222

Heat Stroke 223

Hypothermia 226

Embedded Collars 230

Demodicosis 230

Untreated Injuries 230

12 Sexual Abuse 233

Overview 233

Considerations for Crime Scene Investigation 234

Assessment of Videos 235

General Examination Findings 235

Examination Procedures 236

Suspicious Examination Findings 238

Zoonotic Disease 238

Evaluation and Differentiation of Human and Canine Sperm and Semen 239

13 Animal Fighting 243

Overview of Dog Fighting 243

The Fighting Dog 243

Fighting Classifications 245

The Fight and The Dog Fighting Pit 245

Training and Fighting Paraphernalia 246

Canine CODIS: Fighting Dog Combined DNA Index System 247

Examination of the Animal 247

Cockfighting 250

Other Types of Animal Fighting 252

14 Postmortem Changes and the Postmortem Interval 255

Overview 255

Examination of the Body 255

Determining the PMI: Examination of the Crime Scene 269

15 Forensic Entomology: The Use of Insects in Animal Cruelty Cases 273

Introduction 273

Principles of Medicolegal Entomology 274

Cutaneous Myiasis: The Insect Colonization of Live Animals 276

Other Uses for Insects in Animal Cruelty Investigations 278

Collection of Insect Evidence 279

Summary 284

16 Large Animal Cruelty 287

Introduction 287

Assessing Pain and Suffering 287

Investigation of Cruelty 288

Starvation 289

Body Condition Scoring 290

Evaluation of Water 291

Hoof Care 291

Dental Care 294

Shelter 296

Accidental and Non-Accidental Injuries 297

17 Avian Cruelty 299

Pet Bird Cruelty 299

Avian Abuse Defined 299

Intentional Abuse 300

Unintentional Abuse 301

Veterinary Abuse 302

Poultry Cruelty 303

General Exam Findings in Pet Bird and Poultry Cruelty 307

Appendices 311

1. Colorado Veterinary Medical Association Protocol for Mandatory Reporting of Animal Cruelty and Animal Fighting 311

2. Case Status Form 318

3. Evidence Log/Chain of Custody Form 319

4. Photo Log 321

5. Animal Cruelty Forensic Supplies 322

6. Clandestine Burial Crime Scene Checklist 324

7. Veterinarian Crime Scene Checklist 326

8. Deceased Animal Intake Questionnaire 327

9. Live Animal Intake Questionnaire 328

10. Live Exam Form 329

11. Necropsy Exam Form 330

12. Fixed Tissue List for Histopathology 333

13. Canine Body Condition Score for 1–9 and 1–5 Scales 334

14. Feline Body Condition Score for 1–9 and 1–5 Scales 335

15. Dog Diagram: Condition of Skin, Haircoat, and Nails Form 336

16. Cat Diagram: Condition of Skin, Haircoat, and Nails Form 338

17. Cat Skeleton Lesions Form 340

18. Dog Skeleton Lesions Form 341

19. Cat and Dog Skeletal Inventory Form 342

20. Live Exam Report Template 344

21. Necropsy Report Template 345

22. Forensic Medical Protocol for Large Scale Cases 348

23. Large Scale Medical Supply List 352

24. Large Scale Live Animal Exam Form 356

25. Rapid Bird Exam Form 358

26. Botany Field Report 359

27. Dog Bite Investigation Worksheet 360

28. Basic Small Pet Bird Care in Temporary Shelters 366

29. Tuft’s Animal Care and Condition Scale for Dogs 368

30. Tufts Animal Care and Condition Scale for the Environment 370

31. Dogfighting Terminology 372

32. Cajun Rules for Dogfighting 374

33. Dogfighting Scar and Injury Chart 376

34. Cockfighting Scar and Injury Chart 377

35. Examples of Vitamins, Drugs, and Medical Supplies Used in Dogfighting 378

36. Entomology Form for Animal Cases 380

37. Webliography 383

Index 387

  • New chapters on avian, poultry, and large animal cruelty
  • A standalone chapter on forensic entomology and the valuable information that can be obtained from insects
  • Additional information on the judicial process and reporting of abuse in the legal system chapter
  • Expanded crime scene investigation and animal examination chapters to provide the formative basis for each subsequent chapter
  • Additions and new information in each existing chapter
  • A new section on the pain and suffering of animals provides the scientific basis for this issue
  • Significant additions regarding crime scene investigation, grave excavation, animal examination, evidence collection and packaging, forensic testing, forensic report writing, and large scale cruelty response
  • New photographs, tables, and figures throughout
  • New and improved appendices containing valuable forms, checklists, and resources
  • Case studies highlighting veterinary findings for a variety of instances of abuse from closed case files
  • A companion website providing the logs and workbooks found in the appendices in editable format for use in forensics investigations

“Let’s hope you won’t have to use it too often but definitively a very useful tool.”  (Tomorrow's vets, 1 September 2013)

Veterinary Forensics companion website  features forms and checklists to download and use in investigations.
  • Provides detailed, clear direction on managing animal abuse cases, from crime scene investigation and forensic testing to compiling evidence and testifying in court
  • Concentrates more fully on findings in cases of animal abuse and offers more pathology information throughout
  • Offers new chapters on abuse in horses and other large animals, abuse in poultry and pet birds, and testifying and reporting as an expert witness
  • Provides updated and expanded information in each chapter, including current research findings
  •  Includes access to a companion website with forms and checklists to download and use in forensics investigations at