After the Webinar: Partners in Investigating Animal Crimes. Q&A with the Presenters

Webinar presenters Linda Fielder and Emily Lewis answered a number of your questions after their presentation Partners in Investigating Animal Crimes. Here are just a few of their responses.


Audience Question: How much additional education does a veterinarian need to have to be able to support criminal investigations? Is it a ton of time, a ton of extra vet courses? And is it a bunch of extra costs? 

Linda Fielder: That’s a great question. So, veterinarians are doctors who are experts in animal care and treatment. So, you already have the baseline of knowledge that you need in order to contribute to a forensic case. That being said, a lot of the things that you’ll be learning are really how the evidence that you collect is used in the investigation and trial, and how to write a report that will be used in a case packet. You want to use plain English when you’re testifying so that the court and the prosecutor can understand what you’re saying. In the end, you are making a determination about the cause and manner of death. How long an animal was in pain, or what degree of pain they might have suffered. There’s a lot of training out there and easily available in books and on the Internet. And there is a certificate or a graduate program through the University of Florida where you can specialize in veterinary forensics as well. So, I want to say, a baseline of training is important. And beyond that, then the time commitment is really about where you take it.


Audience Question: Could a vet tech start taking some of these classes as well? They may not be able to sign off on the certificate of death or something like that, but could a vet tech aid significantly in this data collection, in this evidence collection?

Linda Fielder: Absolutely. Veterinary technicians can be critical on the scene as scene responders, identifying evidence. You also are certified in your area of science, so you do have the expertise to contribute to these cases. And in many cases, you can help guide and inform a veterinarian who might not have the same level of training in forensics in what to look for, how to process and package evidence, and the like. So absolutely.


Audience Question: So many communities don’t have enough veterinary services right now. How do you find vets who support these investigations? Specifically, what advice do you have for agencies in impoverished, rural areas, who are struggling with the resources to offer assistance with veterinary care?

Linda Fielder: Sure, well, one of our top recommendations would be to apply for our project. Another would be to go out and make those relationships, or make those connections, and start with a handshake and a conversation. A lot of veterinarians don’t understand what’s expected of them in this level of work, in this area of assistance to law enforcement, and so sometimes they’re afraid of the time commitment or the cost, or showing up for a trial, or having to provide testimony. This type of work really elevates the opinion of that veterinarian in the community. They are really viewed as heroes and exemplary citizens when they participate in protecting animal welfare.

Emily Lewis: And I’ll just add that there are veterinarians who can play a role, even if they’re reviewing records, reports, or photos from a distance. So, if you have a particular case where you have evidence that a veterinarian could evaluate, then reach out to us and we can try to connect you with the veterinarian who could weigh in and be helpful in that case from afar.


Audience Question:  In Connecticut, in 2019. They ceased an emaciated dog. They arrested the owner under an arrest warrant, the owner would not sign the dog over. They are still holding this dog at their facility over two years later. What are your recommendations in terms of how to avoid holding a dog this long in the future? 

Emily Lewis: Well, first of all, I would ask that person to contact me directly, so we can talk about that case specifically. And it’s always going to depend on the state and the remedies that your state law provides, and maybe some other creative ways to look at that case specifically. They’re going to be really case-specific. But I think just having your prosecutors on board, understanding that’s something that’s really important in the case to prioritize and address early on is one step that you can take and, whoever is housing the animal to continue bringing that to the prosecutor’s attention, maybe even to the court’s attention if it has been such a long time. Then utilizing protective custody foster care as a means of at least providing a more humane living circumstance for the animal that’s going to legally have to be held for that long of a time frame.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Partners in Investigating Animal Crimes

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