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ASPCA Trains Veterinary Professionals to Identify, Investigate Animal Cruelty

Panel of experts to present at North American Veterinary Conference
January 13, 2011

NEW YORK--The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) will host a series of presentations designed to educate veterinary professionals in identifying and investigating animal cruelty at this year's North American Veterinary Conference (NAVC), to be held from January 15 - 19 in Orlando, Fla. Held annually since 1984, the NAVC is the largest veterinary conference in North America and provides continuing education to approximately 14,000 veterinary professionals from over 70 countries each year.

"The ASPCA is unique in that we offer staff with specialized knowledge in identifying animal cruelty and bringing its perpetrators to justice," said Matt Bershadker, senior vice president of ASPCA Anti-Cruelty. "Our participation at the North American Veterinary Conference speaks to the depth and breadth of the ASPCA's experience as the oldest humane organization in the United States, making us an immense resource in the continuing education of members of the veterinary healthcare profession."

The ASPCA presentations will take place on Saturday, January 15 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee, Fla., and will include the following topics:

"Blunt Force Trauma: Determining What, When and How" from 8:00-8:50 a.m., Dr. Robert Reisman, medical coordinator of animal cruelty cases at the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital, will discuss how to properly conduct and document the forensic examination of an animal with blunt force trauma injuries. The pattern and distribution of injuries that result from physical abuse is different from the injuries that result from other causes of blunt force trauma, such as motor vehicle accidents and high rise falls.

"Establishing Timelines Using Forensic Science" from 9:00-11:00 a.m., Dr. Jason H. Byrd, Forensic Entomologist, associate director, University of Florida's William R. Maples Center for Forensic Medicine, will be giving two presentations on the use of forensic science and pathology to help animal cruelty investigators create a timeline in cases of animal death. Forensic investigators can use soil chemistry, insects, plants, and changes in tissues after an animal's death to determine how long an animal has been deceased. 

"Mapping and Excavation: Forensic Science Begins at the Crime Scene" on Wednesday, January 19 from  8:00-10:00 a.m., Dr. Byrd will also be discussing how forensic investigators can document, preserve, and even re-create crime scenes based on proper mapping and excavation techniques.  If the proper forensic science techniques are not applied at the crime scene, it can be difficult to move forward with the analytical phase of the investigation and problematic during the courtroom trial phase.

"The Body of Evidence: What We Can Determine in Decomposed Bodies" from 11:10 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Dr. Melinda Merck, senior director of veterinary forensics for the ASPCA and NAVC Board Member, will present on the emerging field of forensic veterinary medicine, noting the valuable information animal welfare professionals can collect by examining the remains of deceased animals. Dr. Merck discuss the various stages of decomposition and the important evidence that can be collected during each stage to determine if a crime, such as animal abuse or fighting, occurred.

"Super-Sized Hoarding Interventions: When One Agency Just Isn't Enough" on Monday, January 17 from 6:00-7:30 p.m., Dr. Merck will also be speaking about large-scale animal hoarding interventions and highlighting the ASPCA's recent collaboration with a regional humane society in treating and re-homing approximately 400 cats seized from a Pennsylvania animal sanctuary.

"Blood Sports: What Every Veterinarian Needs to Know" from 1:45-2:35 p.m., Kathryn Destreza, southeast regional director for the ASPCA Field Investigations & Response team, will provide an overview of blood sports, such as dogfighting and cockfighting, to help animal welfare professionals better recognize the signs of animal fighting. Veterinarians who routinely examine and treat sick and injured animals occupy a unique role in the process of identifying the illegal "sport" of pitting animals against each other in brutal contests.

"Forensic Behavior Evaluations of Dogs Seized in Dogfighting Cases" from 2:45-3:35 p.m., Dr. Pamela Reid, CAAB, vice president of the ASPCA's Animal Behavior Center, will present on the assessment of testing fighting dogs. Since the Michael Vick case, the public has lauded animal welfare organizations for their efforts to evaluate, rehabilitate and re-home animal victims of cruelty. Dogs with a history of fighting need additional testing to ensure they are not a danger to other companion animals, but it can be a significant challenge to conduct safe, valid assessments of their behavior with other dogs. Dr. Reid will address the validity of using lifelike fake dogs as a stand-in for real dogs in the testing process.

"When Animals and Humans Attack: The Behavior Aspect of Animal Attacks and Shootings" from 3:55-4:50 p.m., Dr. Randall Lockwood, senior vice president of ASPCA Forensic Sciences & Anti-Cruelty Projects, will review the role of veterinary and animal behavior professionals in assisting in investigations of fatal dog attacks and dog shootings. The presentation will focus on the growing number of dog shootings, many of them involving law enforcement officers, and note the role veterinary forensic evidence can play in answering some of the questions that arise in such cases, such as whether an animal was attacking or retreating at the time of the shooting.

For more information on the ASPCA and its programs, please visit www.aspca.org. To arrange an interview with any of the ASPCA's experts, please contact Rebecca McNeill at (212) 876-7700 ext. 4582 or [email protected].