When the Evidence Wags Its Tail

When the Evidence Wags Its Tail
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2021-03-02
Unit 1Slide Deck: When the Evidence Wags Its Tail
Unit 2Transcript: When the Evidence Wags Its Tail
Unit 3Workbook: When the Evidence Wags Its Tail
Unit 4Recording: When the Evidence Wags Its Tail

When it comes to combatting crime and cruelty, would want to ensure that offenders are made accountable for the violence or negligence committed. When the victims are helpless and do not have a voice, we are passionate about advocating for their rights and protection. But it’s just about as critical to not let our emotions take over that we’re not being objective anymore. For animals that are subjected to neglect and abuse, sometimes, we need to take a step back to see the bigger picture and remain impartial in our quest to seek justice.

This session’s instructor is Nina Stively. She is the Director of Loudoun County Animal Services in northern Virginia. She is certified as an Animal Cruelty Investigator, Animal Welfare Administrator, and Animal Control Officer in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Nina provides actionable guidelines on how to best document an animal’s condition for investigative purposes on this course. Specifics tackled on this webinar include:

  • Humans’ role to be the voice for the voiceless and how our words, actions, and gathered evidence can do that for the animals.
  • Photos as the most essential aspect of documentation in evidence gathering and investigation for animal law cases.
    • Why take photos at all times and how photos can provide a baseline on an animal’s state and confirm progression of any condition it may have.
    • Pointers when it comes to taking photos of the animals plus examples demonstrating how this is done and what it accomplishes for investigation.
      • Nose-to-tail: The value in capturing every part of the animal in photos.
      • The rationale behind taking the picture big to small and in multiple perspectives.
      • Taking photos alongside an item for scale and size reference purposes
  • The crucial element of not diagnosing the animal’s conditions and instead providing descriptive and accurate documentation of symptoms as observed on the animal.
    • Specific samples of recommended positioning for reports and documentation.
    • The importance of not assuming link or causation of injuries or conditions.
    • The value in understanding the body condition scoring system and how to conduct these to establish the animal’s apparent physical condition.
    • Collaborating with veterinarians for assessments and equipping them with the tools to best provide the outcomes needed.
  • Why it is critical to just stick to the objective information and not let emotions skew the facts.
    • Example verbiage to provide descriptive and objective details of some of the most common conditions animals may be in and the behavior it is showing.
    • The significance of keeping documentation general or vague if unsure and avoiding the use of using value-laden words to describe an animal’s condition and behavior.
    • Guidelines when dealing with and avoiding speculations for less common conditions and injuries.
  • The value that these three rules play in putting together a robust case that can stand in court and provide the animals the justice it deserves.

Questions from the audience were about:

  • Training staff on best practices in documenting behavior and physical condition.
  • The different Body Condition Scoring Systems available and preference of one over another.
  • Body condition scoring training requirement to provide body condition score.
  • Avoiding subjective terms in the documentation.
  • Rights and laws surrounding taking photos inside or around someone’s house.


Resources and Handouts


Audience Comments

  • “As a small rural agency without major funding for training these webinars are invaluable to keep up to date on best practices and standards. Thank you for allowing access to the webinars. Enjoyed the photography information – All the time!!!” — Catherine
  • “In small-town USA, our law enforcement puts animal issues on the back burner, if we’re lucky at all. We remain frustrated with our documentation and presentation of cases. Local veterinarians don’t want to get involved. This webinar lets me know that we still need to move forward and we will inject some details into what we currently do. Thank you so much.”  — Terrie
  • “I have over 30 years in this field (animal care investigations). This speaker was by far one of the best I’ve ever attended. (Nina S.) I will attend and recommend any content she delivers. Fantastic.” — Diana
  • “I thought this was a very helpful webinar and super relatable! Great job to the instructor. I will be passing this along to others in my agency.” — Jessica
  • “This was the simplest way and most efficient way someone has described how to investigate animal offenses. I have been through dozens of these webinars. The way the process was split into three parts, I found that to be the most helpful.” — Katherine
  • “The webinar was great. The reaffirmation of using common language and documenting what you see in a common narrative along with the photos was really well done. This presenter was fabulous. I would definitely attend future webinars by this presenter. Very well done, put-together webinar. Thank you.” — Kimberley
  • “Great tips on documentation language; really good photos and presentation platform. Thank you so much.” — DAVID
  • “She did an exceptional job in the very short amount of time she was allotted to address the importance of photo-documentation (and being mindful of different angles, etc to accurately show what one is seeing at that time), as well as written documentation so it holds up and maintains the integrity of objectiveness.” — Trina
  • “Always great info for law enforcement.” — Robert



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.





Additional Resources
1 year ago
Online Course: Building and Winning an Animal Welfare Case
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3 years ago
After the Webinar: When the Evidence Wags its Tail. Q&A with Nina Stively
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Processing Evidence in Animal Crime Cases
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