CVMA | Veterinarians as Expert Witnesses

Veterinarians as Expert Witnesses

The veterinarian's role in the prosecution of cruelty cases may involve one or more of the following:

  1. Assisting in determining the identity of the victim, including species and, in some cases, the individual animal.
  2. Commenting on reasonably prudent actions that could have been taken to prevent disease, injury or death.
  3. Determining the cause of death and the sequence of injuries and timing of pre-mortem or post-mortem mutilations or other treatment (e.g. hanging, burning or impaling). This may include observations at the scene of the injury as well as necropsy and laboratory analyses.
  4. Identifying evidence that may link the injuries to a particular suspect. This could include recovery of trace materials (e.g. ligatures, adhesives, wax, paint, flammable substances) and analysis of injuries that might be linked to a unique source, such as stab wounds.
  5. Distinguishing between death and injury resulting from human vs. non-human causes (e.g. predation) or intentional vs. accidental injury.
  6. Offering opinions regarding the speed of unconsciousness and/or death and the degree of suffering the victim experienced. This may be necessary to classify a particular maltreatment as "torture", which may be a requirement for classifying the crime as an indictable offense.

In assisting in the prosecution of animal abuse cases, veterinarians may be asked to write a report or provide expert testimony.

Watch for the upcoming book Forensic Investigation of Animal Cruelty by Leslie Sinclair, Melinda Merck, and Randall Lockwood.

See also Ernest D Olfert, BWR (Byrnne) Rothwell, and Greg LG Harasen: Providing Veterinary Expertise in an Animal Welfare Case, or What the SPCA Inspector Wants When They Call a Veterinarian