In a past webinar with John Thompson, we were able to deep-dive into the link of animal abuse to human abuse. He detailed the reasons why animal abuse should be taken seriously by law enforcement. The course also established through numerous case studies illustrating how animal abuse can escalate to or coexist with violence and abuse to human beings.
Today’s webinar complements that course and this time, Dr. Melinda Merck expounded on how animal cruelty investigations are done, applying forensics to cases involving animals, and how animal abuse cases can be correlated or support other cases.
Dr. Melinda Merck, the owner of Veterinary Forensics Consulting in Austin, Texas is this session’s resource speaker. She has extensive experience in the field of animal cruelty crime scene investigation. This encompasses providing services to examine live and deceased victims as well as training for veterinary, justice, and law enforcement professionals internationally on the use of veterinary forensic science and medicine.
Dr. Merck discussed specifics on animal cruelty cases including:
- Studies and statistics demonstrating the link between animal cruelty to other forms of violent crimes as sexual abuse and domestic violence.
- Utilizing evidence from the suspect, victim, and the scene – including animals – to make sense of crime scenes and cases.
- A brief background on animal DNA forensic testing, types of tests that may be done, and the costs.
- The value of animal fur in an investigation.
- Bestiality and/or animal sexual abuse cases, statistics, and information, and the facts that must be considered to build such cases.
- Forensic entomology and how analyzing insects can be used to uncover case timelines.
Case studies, the various practices involved in it, and lessons learned.
- A dead-end case of animal cruelty where 14 puppies were seen with blunt force trauma, and how it led to a domestic violence arrest.
- The Palm Beach case where a child pornography warrant led to the discovery of video evidence implicating the male defendant for sexual assault on his pet German Shepherd.
- A case of a Louisiana parish mayor that after being incriminated with child pornography, police search led to finding photo and video evidence of animal cruelty where he is seen to be subjecting kittens to blunt force trauma, partial asphyxia through drowning and muzzling, and drugging kittens.
- A Virginia case of a man who kidnapped/held captive his girlfriend and tortured dogs and cats.
- A case where the defendant who trapped 2 cats to be attacked by his pet dog revealed a family history of violence where the defendant's father was a convicted child molester, and the defendant's mother, a victim.
- A case of a pitbull found shot and how entymology through the maggots found on the dog’s body supported the case against a suspect that LE identified previously for a traffic violation and shotgun possession.
- The puppy torture case of two teenagers who broke into a community center, caused extensive damage, and tortured a puppy with the puppy dying from thermal injury.
- The different resources and experts available to help other agencies with animal violence cases.
- Poll questions delved on use of animal evidence in criminal case and dealing with a case without a body.
Dr. Merck responded to attendee's concerns on:
- Dealing with trauma as a practitioner handling animal abuse/violence cases
- Recent statistics on animal cruelty
- The role of forensic radiology as evidence for animal abuse
- Overcoming lack of resources to pursue animal cruelty cases
- Best practices and challenges encountered in handling these cases