Veterinary Forensic Sciences: ASPCA Program

Maples Center for Forensic Medicine ASPCA

Veterinary Continuing Education

Shelters are the primary agencies that encounter animal cruelty. Shelter veterinarians are the professionals most likely to be asked to render expert opinions regarding suspected cruelty cases, and their involvement in any investigation is critical to a successful outcome.

Veterinarians Play a Critical Role in Animal Cruelty Investigations

Veterinarians and shelter staff are often the first to recognize signs of abuse during intake examinations, and investigations are usually conducted by officers of the shelter or local law enforcement, depending on the jurisdiction.

At the crime scene, veterinarians must interpret the findings in the context of the behavior of the victim. Veterinarians and veterinary technicians/assistants are more qualified to examine animal victims and interpret crime scenes involving animals than investigators of human victims. A veterinary professional should be at the scene, or otherwise assist investigators with crime scene analysis.

The role of the veterinarian is critical in cruelty investigations, and includes:

  • Documentation of physical findings of abuse
  • Collection of evidence, and provision of treatment
  • Working with the prosecutor on case strategy, and
  • Testifying in court.

Training and Education is a Core Issue in Veterinary Forensics

The core issue for animal cruelty investigations is training and education. The historical lack of investigation and prosecution of animal cruelty cases is primarily due to:

  • Lack of recognition
  • Lack of knowledge of investigation procedures, and
  • Lack of knowledge of available professional resources and expertise.

We provide training for veterinary students, shelter medicine residents, shelter veterinarians and veterinary technicians, as well as animal cruelty investigators through a series of intensive workshops, and an elective course for veterinary students. We take advantage of unique regional resources that provide expertise in animal forensic investigations, including the University of Florida’s Maples Center for Forensic Medicine.

Enhancing the Science of Animal Cruelty Investigations with Research

Effective crime-scene investigation of animal victims is hindered by the lack of veterinary-specific scientific data to assist in the interpretation of evidence. In addition to providing training programs for forensic investigations, we engage in research designed to enhance the science of animal cruelty investigations.

For more information, including current course offerings, please visit the University of Florida Veterinary Forensic Sciences website.

Graduate Certificate in Veterinary Forensic Sciences

The ASPCA Veterinary Forensic Sciences Program at UF has developed a graduate certificate in Veterinary Forensic Sciences to be offered as a distance education program. This graduate certificate program started in January 2012, and will consist of the following courses:

  • Animal Crime Scene Analysis
  • Scientific and Legal Principles of Evidence
  • Advanced Principles of Forensic Entomology
  • Cruelty to Animals and Interpersonal Violence
  • Veterinary Forensic Pathology