ASPCA vet offers insight into forensic veterinary science

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Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

Sometimes, the most interesting information on the Internet can be found in another blog. So when I came across this Q&A on the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) website, I thought it was definitely worth sharing.

In the post, the ASPCA’s director of veterinary forensics shared a glimpse into the world of forensic veterinary science and explained its importance.

Animal CSI

I suppose you could think of it as crime scene investigation in animal cruelty and similar cases. Of course, that’s not what Dr. Rachel Touroo said. But I think it’s the best way to sum up what she does.

Here’s how she explained it.

“A Forensic Veterinarian’s job is to identify, collect and assess evidence from animals and their environment.  I use veterinary medical knowledge to put together the pieces of a puzzle to try to answer the questions asked of me by law enforcement and the courts in an unbiased and objective manner.”

Because her responsibilities are so varied, Touroo said she faces different challenges every day. One day she might be in the lab, the next day she might be in the field and the day after that she might be teaching.

“Frequently, I can also be found in my office drafting a forensic veterinary statement of my findings from the latest case, or in a classroom teaching third-year veterinary students how to look for signs of intentional cruelty,” Touroo said. “I’m also called upon to testify as an expert witness in cases across the country.”

Rewarding and important work

Touroo has a background in “animal welfare” and got involved in forensic veterinary science when she took a brand new job in Virginia. As she recalls, the state needed a veterinarian to “specifically address puppy mills and animal fighting in the state due to recent undercover puppy mill investigations and a highly publicized dog fighting case.”

“I had no idea what veterinary forensic sciences was when I accepted the position, but I quickly found myself immersed in the discipline,” Touroo said.

For Touroo, the work is rewarding and important. Citing the link between violence committed against animals with violence committed against people, Touroo says by doing her job properly she can not only prevent further cruelty to animals but keep people safe, too.

“While I love what I do, it is disheartening to know this job is necessary. I choose to focus on the impact we have and the positive outcomes. It’s incredibly uplifting to see an animal rescued from abuse and neglect find a loving home,” Touroo says. “If I had my way, I would put myself out of work, but until that time comes, I’m proud to be a voice for these victims.”

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