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Animal Abuse Investigations – The Link to Domestic Violence and the Lack of Prosecution of Animal Abuse Cases

Plastic bags containing the remains of about 25 cats were found hanging from a tree in Yonkers on Thursday. Credit S.P.C.A. of Westchester's Humane Law Enforcement Division, via Associated Press

Plastic bags containing the remains of about 25 cats were found hanging from a tree in Yonkers on Thursday. Credit S.P.C.A. of Westchester’s Humane Law Enforcement Division, via Associated Press

You may have seen recently in the news a story from Yonkers, New York, where 25 cats were found hanging from trees in a wooded area. Necropsies on a few of the cats that died more recently elucidated the cause of death – blunt force trauma to the head.

Clearly this is not a simple case of animal cruelty or neglect. A person who commits this sort of act is likely to be engaging in other criminal activities given that there is a strong correlation between people who abuse/kill animals and people who abuse/kill people. (See below for links…)

Though cases like this intermittently pop up in the news, animal abuse, cruelty, and neglect occur regularly throughout the country. We just don’t hear about it every day.

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The Forensic Veterinary Examination

Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of my job as a shelter veterinarian at a large municipal shelter is that I get to be involved in veterinary forensics.

For those of you who have seen shows such as Animal Cops or CSI, you may have an idea of what this  entails. Essentially, I work with animal service officers to investigate and prosecute cases such as animal abuse and neglect by performing examinations on the animals that are the focus of the investigation to determine whether my examination supports or fails to support the case.

Some of the interesting cases I’ve seen so far include:

  • Dogs allegedly killed by other dogs
  • Dogs that were allegedly abused.
  • Dogs that were allegedly neglected, such as¬†owners allegedly failed to provide the dogs with medical care after a substantial injury or attack.
  • Dogs that were allegedly sodomized.
  • Dogs that died from unknown causes and were found on a crime scene that was part of a police investigation.

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