When federal investigators working the Michael Vick dogfighting case needed someone to dig up and analyze the remains of eight pit bulls buried on the football star’s Virginia property, they summoned Melinda Merck.
The nation’s top forensic veterinarian, Merck was one of the few specialists trained in processing crime scenes involving animals. Her job at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals involves helping prosecutors build court cases, and she saw that there weren’t nearly enough vets and other professionals with those skills.
Merck, 46, is trying to change that, co-founding a first-of-its-kind veterinary forensic science training program at the University of Florida. She and scientists from the university’s human forensics lab are sharing their expertise with animal-cruelty investigators, police and veterinarians who come to Gainesville from around the world.
In a nod to the popular TV shows, it’s already being called “Animal CSI.”
Demand for forensic veterinarians has been growing as many states have toughened their animal cruelty laws. And law enforcement agencies nationwide have increasingly recognized that people who abuse animals are more likely to commit crimes against people.
Hands-on seminars teach participants crime-scene processing and the preservation of evidence in cases of animal abuse and neglect such as those involving puppy mills, dogfighting and animal hoarding. Elements include exhuming remains, analyzing hair, fibers and blood splatter and even how insect life cycles and plant growth can yield clues about an animal’s death.
Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/11/27/v-fullstory/1941816/animal-csi-uf-program-teaches.html#ixzz16XXw9HTw