Investigating and Prosecuting Animal Sexual Abuse Cases

Investigating and Prosecuting Animal Sexual Abuse Cases
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1 Resources
Recorded on: 2020-01-07
Unit 1 Slide Deck: Investigating and Prosecuting Animal Sexual Abuse Cases
Unit 2 Workbook: Investigating and Prosecuting Animal Sexual Abuse Cases
Unit 3 Recording: Investigating and Prosecuting Animal Sexual Abuse Cases

Typically, the topic of bestiality elicits discomfort if not downright disgust. But avoiding the uneasy feeling doesn’t make the issue go away. Animal sexual abuse cases must be addressed head-on, investigated and prosecuted accordingly.  This session lays out the whats, hows, and whys of investigating and prosecuting animal sexual abuse.

A familiar resource speaker here in Justice Clearinghouse, Michelle Welch is the Senior Assistant Attorney General in the Virginia Attorney General’s Office and the Director of its Animal Law Unit. She is Virginia’s resident expert when it comes to all things animal law and serves as a special prosecutor for animal cruelty and fighting cases.


Some of the points discussed in this webinar include:

  • What encompasses sexual abuse of an animal, and why it is important to treat these cases like any other crime.
  • Factors that pose challenges in investigating and prosecuting animal sexual abuse/bestiality/crimes against nature.
  • Studies that provide an overview of how committing crimes on animals escalate to committing crimes on people.
  • Red flags that may indicate that a person is involved in animal sexual abuse.
  • Understanding the scope and limitation of existing laws to assist in investigating and prosecuting these cases.
  • The different types of crimes that are found to be linked to animal sexual abuse perpetration, from trespassing to child sexual abuse, and studies that outline these.
  • Zeroing in on the link of animal sexual abuse to child and adult sexual abuse, statistics that highlight the correlation, the offenders’ profile, and the victim injury.
  • Outlining guidelines on investigation procedures and critical points.
    • Understanding terminologies used by those involved in the bestiality community.
    • Common vectors in which animal sexual abuse may be discovered.
    • How technology plays a key role in crimes of these nature and how to use technology to investigation’s advantage.
    • Investigating other potentially linked characters like breeders and veterinarians as well as observing the dog’s behavior.
    • Overcoming the repugnance people – from responders to judges – may have when dealing with animal sexual abuse.
    • Digital, paper and live evidence that must be included in search warrants.
    • Crime Scene 101: Identifying, collecting and documenting evidence critical to building a robust case for prosecution.
    • The importance of effective interviewing strategies for both law enforcement and animal control officers in these cases.
    • Medical and forensic examinations and procedures to conduct on both the animals and the perpetrator.
  • Prosecution tips that emphasize the importance of avoiding pleas, maximizing plea agreements, getting the judge and/or jury to see and understand what happened, and dealing with juvenile offenders.
  • Numerous case examples were also provided to better explain concepts.


Audience questions were about:

  • The Hare Psychopathy Checklist.
  • The nature of the offense for crush videos.
  • Prosecuting minors for animal sexual abuse.
  • Awareness, prevalence and reporting of these incidents.
  • Resources for veterinarians for forensic evaluations.
  • Specifying both live and dead animals in animal sexual abuse laws.


Audience Comments:

  • “The animals are just as much a victim as humans and animal sexual abuse can lead to the abuse of humans.” — Carmella
  • “It was a good webinar from attorney perspective and legal options. …Overall it was an excellent webinar.” — Jagjit
  • “The stat of animal sexual abusers becoming human sexual abusers is staggering. Reinforcing the belief that these cases should NOT be pleaded down to non-animal or non-sexual offenses was also reassuring.” — Dana
  • “A how-to is valuable. Too often we focus on “what it is” and not “how to investigate”. Excellent training.” — Joye
  • “I was particularly pleased with the awareness and guidance on proper evidence collection and protection.” — Jay



View our Animal Welfare Webinar  Schedule and Recordings



This webinar has been certified by the National Animal Care & Control Association and is approved for 1 Continuing Education Unit. Please refer to your NACA membership portal for current CEU submission process. Current NACA Members who attend the live presentation or watch the recording will be able to download a jointly issued attendance certificate that includes the National Animal Care & Control Association logo. Visit the NACA training page for a complete list of future trainings.




This webinar has been pre-approved by the Maine Animal Welfare Program for 1 Continuing Education Unit for the State of Maine’s ACO annual training. You can find more information about Certification, required annual training or submitting materials for credit at Maine’s Animal Control Officer Resource Page.





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