When people talk about investigations and case, the most common individuals envisioned to be involved in these are police officers, detectives, and lawyers. Rarely are veterinarians what would be a top of mind character involved in it. But for animal cruelty cases, veterinarians play a vital role in examining live evidence and seeing that justice is rightfully served.
Today’s course instructor is Martha Smith Blackmore, she is a veterinarian experienced in animal cruelty investigations. She is a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police forensic science committee and the president of a veterinary forensics consulting group. She is also an adjunct professor at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.
Martha joins Justice Clearinghouse to give the lowdown on the medical facet of animal cruelty cases and zeroes in on the critical role that veterinarians play in it. She provided a detailed discussion on:
- The personality and training of veterinarians that provides an overview of the manner they tend to respond to animal cruelty cases.
- How animal cruelty investigations benefit from having a veterinary insight to determine whether an incident that transpired is accidental or not.
- A breakdown of the things that investigators must disclose to the veterinarians to help them understand the importance of their role.
- A look into the section of animal cruelty investigation that is augmented by veterinary documentation and its stages.
- The comprehensive physical exam where the animal goes through a nose to tail exam, its inclusions and things to watch out for.
- The lab work that an animal found to be a victim of maltreatment/neglect must go through.
- Evidence management where input from the investigator might be required.
- Specific procedures that provide history and context of injuries such as biopsies, radiography, sketching of wounds and lesions, and pain assessment.
- Photographic documentation and how to capture effective photographic evidence.
- Record management and the importance of providing more details than the standard tickbox.
- Handling and storage of dead animals subject for necropsy.
- Summary reporting where a veterinarian’s opinion is highly valued.
- Planning for large-scale cases such as puppy mills and animal fighting that would require an interagency operation to deal with logistics, triage and evidence management.
- Ideas to foster working relationships between the field of criminal justice and veterinary medicine.
- Resources and case examples were included to provide a more detailed understanding of the points and concepts discussed.
- Questions from the course attendees revolved around:
- Veterinarians who worry that testifying in animal cruelty cases might cost them their client base.
- The cost of doing lab works, and workarounds if costs hinder an agency from doing a thorough investigation.
- Making citizens and veterinarians more proactive and engaged in reporting animal cruelty cases.
- Acceptability and guidelines in taking videos instead of photos.
- Resources on animal hoarding cases.
- Getting veterinarians to understand the intricacies of the criminal justice system.
Resources Mentioned During Webinar: