Veterinary forensics is becoming increasingly important in the investigation of animal cruelty since it became apparent that people who do harm to animals are also more likely, than those who have no record of animal mistreatment, to do harm to people.
The RSPCA reports that more than a third of the animal cruelty prosecutions they handle fail to make a conviction through the lack of evidence linking the suspect to the criminal action.
The need to present the courts with meaningful, robust and reliable evidence against those who harm or mistreat animals has led to the emergence of the relatively new specialist discipline of veterinary forensics.
The University of Surrey have pooled their resources
Practising veterinary professionals, forensic scientists and veterinary pathologists at the University of Surrey have pooled their knowledge, expertise and resources to create ArroGen Veterinary Forensics.
Conceived as a complete veterinary forensic service, the new enterprise brings together veterinary diagnostics, pathologists, experienced forensic scientists, and experts in the law and criminal justice system.
Vets and veterinary laboratories are expert in uncovering the physical consequences of injury, neglect and poisoning. Veterinary forensics involves the careful consideration of whether this physical evidence is more likely if the allegation against an accused person is true, compared to the likelihood of the vet’s findings given any explanation offered in defence.
Working closely with the Police, RSPCA and other agencies
The facility will work closely with the police, the RSPCA and agencies investigating the progression from animal cruelty to criminal behaviour directed against humans. Initially, the RSPCA and the police will submit most of the cases accepted for forensic investigation, though vets in local practice will have an input role too.
Local vets have always been at the forefront of uncovering incidents of cruelty against both commercial and companion animals. The new facility will enable vets to back up their ethical stance against mistreatment and misuse of commercial, companion and wild animals with practical and effective action.
Providing training, resources and online teaching materials
Responding to requests from practising vets and veterinary laboratories, the new centre will provide training, resources and online teaching materials to be made increasingly available over the next few years. Educational courses will focus on forensic awareness and interpretation, equipping vets and veterinary laboratories with continual professional development (CPD) opportunities to acquire a basic understanding and competence in the new discipline.
The veterinary forensics service will operate across two sites – ArroGen in Oxfordshire, and the University Pathology Centre in Surrey. Ultimately the success or otherwise of the venture will be proven in courts of law when the veterinary forensic evidence supporting a prosecution of animal cruelty receives the same scrutiny applied to all forensic evidence.