Animal abuse science is new, and this team works on forensic evidence to get convictions in animal cruelty investigations.
Forensic crime-scene investigations are no longer limited to human victims. Many of the very same techniques brought to public awareness by the popular CSI television series are being used to make cases against those who have harmed or killed cats, dogs, horses or other animals.
Applying forensic science to animal victims is a specialty still so new that it's fairly rare. But two self-taught experts who make up the recently formed Veterinary Forensics unit of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are writing book and chapter (three how-to tomes so far) and sharing their knowledge almost as quickly as they develop it.
Melinda Merck is a veterinarian who ran an Atlanta-area cat clinic for years before becoming intrigued with forensic science in the '90s. Randall Lockwood has a doctorate in psychology and has developed expertise in cruelty and violence. They travel the country to investigate crimes against animals (including the Michael Vick dogfighting case and a notorious Atlanta puppy-torture case last year).
How cool is that?
"Animal cases are similar to crimes against young children who can't speak for themselves," says Merck. "You have to use every resource and every investigative tool to attempt to put together the pieces of the puzzle."