BOOKS: Forensic Investigation of Animal Cruelty

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2007:

Forensic Investigation of Animal Cruelty:
A Guide for Veterinary & Law Enforcement Professionals
by Leslie Sinclair, DVM, Melinda Merck, DVM,
& Randall Lockwood, Ph.D.
Humane Society Press (c/o Humane Society of the U.S., 2100 L St.,
NW, Washington, DC 20037), 2006. 262 pages, paperback. $59.95.

Cruelty investigators and shelter veterinarians who take
their jobs seriously will read Forensic Investigation of Animal
Cruelty cover to cover, then wear it to tatters re-reading and
referencing it. The $59.95 price tag is steep for a paperback book,
but the information within it can save the cover cost many times over
in resolving even one cruelty case, by saving investigative time,
helping investigators to avoid false alarms and dead ends, bringing
more perpetrators to justice, and winning more convictions on
stronger charges.

Though fluently written, Forensic Investigation of Animal
Cruelty will not be easy reading for non-professionals. Chapters
headings include Thermal Injuries, Blunt Force Trauma, Sharp Force
Injuries, Projectile Injuries, Asphixia, Drowning, Poisoning,
Neglect, Animal Hoarding, Animal Sexual Assault, Occult &
Ritualistic Abuse, and Dogfighting & Cockfighting. Each chapter
includes detailed discussion of what to expect, what to look for,
and how to handle the evidence. Several chapters also review the
sociology and demographics of typical offenders.
The discussion of Occult & Ritualistic Abuse offers an
especially valuable description of the differences among the
practices of the various animal-using religions. The authors rebut
the common notion that “witches” and “Satanists” who participate in
organized rituals are inclined to harm animals, noting that the
number of verified cases is practically nil. Ritualistic animal
killing is far more often the work of isolated individuals whom the
authors call “self-styled Satanists,” and teenagers, whom the
authors call “youth subculture Satanists.”
Natural predator and scavenger behavior often results in
false alarms about alleged ritualistic killings, as ANIMAL PEOPLE
pointed out in November 1998 and September 2003. Forensic
Investigation of Animal Cruelty provides similar analysis, and adds
particulars about “cattle mutilation” cases, which typically result
from observers failing to recognize how coyotes, crows, and magpies
go about dismembering a cattle carcass. Forensic Investigation of
Animal Cruelty does not quite cover everything useful to know about
predator and scavenger behavior when investigating alleged cruelty,
especially in cases involving hawks, owls, and eagles–but that
material is accessible in the ANIMAL PEOPLE articles, and what the
book includes is far more than has previously been included in humane
investigation training materials.

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