There’s been more and more awareness of animal cruelty and its link to human violence and crimes. However, despite this awareness, some agencies still don’t have enough practical knowledge on how to traverse animal crime investigation, particularly processing evidence.
Two esteemed experts join Justice Clearinghouse to provide tips and insights on animal crime investigation. Jessica Rock is the Assistant District Attorney with the Towaliga Judicial Circuit and is the Georgia Statewide Animal Crimes Prosecutor and Trainer where she provides case assistance and training for law enforcement, animal control officers, prosecutors, judges, and veterinarians on everything related to animal cruelty. Meanwhile, Martha Smith-Blackmore is a veterinarian experienced in animal welfare, emergency veterinary medicine, and animal cruelty investigations, working alongside law enforcement and animal control officers.
Specifics they delved into on this session are:
- Getting a search warrant, and other concepts to consider ensuring search and seizures are conducted legally.
- The different types of evidence typically collected or used in animal crime investigations and the federal rules of court when it comes to providing expert opinion.
- Pointers for veterinarians when it comes to responding to and reporting potential animal cruelty in compliance with local laws, and the working dynamics between vets and investigators.
- The value in having a comprehensive notes and report for both vets and investigators to facilitate better investigation and court proceedings.
- A detailed look into the procedures included in crime scene investigation
- The FBI’s 12-Step Process for Crime Scene Investigation that outlines the major areas that must be done.
- Systematically documenting the scene through the different types of search patterns that ensure thoroughness depending on the crime scene and the number of available investigators.
- What trace evidence is and how it can tell the story and links between the elements and individuals involved in the cases.
- How photography can provide the most accurate representation of the scene and all evidence within, plus tips when photographing the scene of the crime.
- The importance of proper packaging and recording of evidence, evidence collection and packaging protocols to remember, and alternative evidence storage options.
- Best practices for collecting, handling, and processing…
- Evidence of animal sexual abuse and other special considerations.
- Biological material for DNA evidence.
- Live evidence from identifying multiple animals, conducting a physical exam, observing for behavioral expressions of pain, to chain of custody and unique challenges with live evidence.
- Evidence and factors to consider in hyperthermia cases.
- Deceased animals particularly the storage and conducting post-mortem exam.
- Ballistic and sharp evidence.
- The next steps after comprehensive evidence collection.
- The collaboration required between veterinarians, investigators, and prosecutors to ensure that a case can be proven beyond reasonable doubt.
- Guidelines for veterinarians who may be called to testify in court.
- The accredited laboratories where evidence are processed for evidence analysis, the International Association for Property and Evidence (IAPE), and ongoing initiatives to professionalize and establish standards for clinical veterinary forensics.
Topics discussed during the Q&A were on getting the animal and owner to stay in a vet’s office while the vet is making a report and the types of medical opinions that may be included in veterinarians’ reports or statements.
Resources & Handouts
- National Link Coalition
- Veterinary Forensics
- International Association for Property and Evidence
- PSA (Video): Animal Abuse? Dial 911
- “It was refreshing to hear from a community that believes animal abuse is as serious as any other type of abuse!” — Amanda
- “Excellent webinar! This was my first time participating and I will certainly plan to return for others. I learned lots of good information and it was obvious that both presenters are experts in their fields.” –Ashley
- “I found it valuable to have the knowledge of what is expected/required of the veterinary approach to evidence documentation and collection, just in case we have newer veterinarians assisting with Protective Custody examines. So much useful information was provided in this webinar. Thank you.” — Beverly
- “As the profession of Animal Control and investigation continues to evolve, learning new ideas and tactics is crucial to how we can all work together to get convictions or at least, the truth. It is always good to continue education and go over the best ways to do things to help all parties involved. Very good!!” — Christine
- “Fantastic webinar! Thank you for the links to additional resources!” — Desiree
- “It could have been a 2-hour seminar — it was that good.” — Ilka
- “The webinar was great!! A lot of good information, diagrams, and pictures. Thank you!!” — Jennifer
- “OUTSTANDING! I learned so much! … Also, as an aside, many belated thanks to Dr. Smith-Blackmore for her outstanding work on the Massachusetts “Puppy Doe” case.” — Jen
- “I am a police officer with 40 years of experience, however, live animal evidence is something I know nothing about. So that was new and valuable information.” — Joye
- “As an animal control Officer was beneficial to hear how to enter and handle the scene. The speakers were great! I hope to attend another webinar.” — Makayla
- “Great information from experienced cruelty investigation participants; very helpful for veterinary personnel; any future topics by either of these speakers would be very welcome; Thank you so much for this webinar; Aaron always does a super job running these webinars.” — David