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.”

Good news about animal adoption from the ASPCA

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We’ve all seen them. In fact it seems like they flash across our TV screens all too often. It’s hard to ignore those heartbreaking images of abused and neglected dogs, cats, puppies and kittens.

We’ve all heard the pleas from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and similar animal rescue groups. Make a donation. Sponsor a pet. Adopt don’t buy. Do the right thing.

But recently the ASPCA shared some good news on TODAY. People across the country are actually heeding the call. They’re doing the right thing.

More new homes, fewer deaths for shelter animals

New ASPCA data reveals that the number of dogs and cats that end up in U.S. shelters has dropped significantly in the past six years. Specifically, the animal welfare organization says the number of dogs and cats American shelters is approximately 6.5 million (3.3 million dogs and 3.2 million cats). Back in 2011, the total number of dogs and cats in American shelters was roughly 7.2 million.

Cute Kitten, courtesy of FURRR 911. Photo by A. Bogdanovic
Bolt, a kitten rescued by FURRR 911, at Puttin’ On The Dog & Cats, Too 2016. Photo by A. Bogdanovic

The good news doesn’t end there, however.

More people are adopting pets from shelters now than they did six years ago. The ASPCA estimates that 3.2 million dogs and cats are now adopted from shelters each year, as opposed to 2.7 million in 2011.

Better yet, fewer shelter are animals are being euthanized. The ASPCA’s data analysis back in 2011 revealed that 2.7 million unclaimed shelter animals were killed each year. Today the annual death toll stands at roughly 1.5 million.

Finally, the ASPCA says, more “lost” pets that end up in shelters are reunited with their rightful owners today than in the past (approximately 710,000 per year now as compared to 649,000 in 2011).

Awareness plus action equals success

The ASPCA attributes the success to:

  • A significant change in the way Americans view companion animals
  • Changes in adoption procedures
  • Changes in certain laws
  • Changes in technology
  • Greater availability of affordable spay/neuter clinics
  • More assistance for people who struggle to care for their pets

Pet ownership is a responsibility, not a right

Clearly the reduction in the number of euthanized shelter animals is a huge step in the right direction. But there is still a long way to go until we get to the point where there are no needless deaths.

Finding a humane way to curb the feral animal population in the United States is also an ongoing concern.

In order to address both issues, people must realize that pet ownership is a responsibility. It is not a right. No one is entitled to have a dog, cat, puppy or kitten. In fact, there are some people who should never have dogs, cats, puppies, kittens, or any other pets, for that matter.

Companion animals rely on people for food, shelter, medical care, and most importantly, love. Providing all of that is a tremendous responsibility. But it’s worth it.