Veterinary forensics: animals curtailing crime.At midnight, you and your family are asleep. Suddenly, you awaken to a crash downstairs. You immediately get out of the bed to investigate the cause of the noise and find a broken window. After you call 911, a crime scene unit arrives and discovers impression evidence in dog feces near the broken window. The unit protects the scene, takes pictures, and collects samples. The next day, police apprehend a suspect and find evidence of dog feces on the sole of one of his shoes. Not only is the sole impression the same but DNA testing DNA testing
Analysis of DNA (the genetic component of cells) in order to determine changes in genes that may indicate a specific disorder.
Mentioned in: Acoustic Neuroma, Retinoblastoma, Von Willebrand Disease of the feces confirms that it matches what authorities collected at the crime scene as well.
This hypothetical situation presents just one way that veterinary forensics See computer forensics. (i.e., the use of animals, particularly their DNA DNA: see nucleic acid.
or deoxyribonucleic acid
One of two types of nucleic acid (the other is RNA); a complex organic compound found in all living cells and many viruses. It is the chemical substance of genes. ) can provide vital assistance to law enforcement professionals conducting a criminal investigation. (1) Many owners have a close association with their animals and often have traces of the pets, such as hair and saliva, on them. In some cases, the animal's blood, urine, and feces may be in the owner's surroundings. (2) Subsequently, the analysis of animal DNA may prove invaluable to investigators. (3)
Using animals to assist law enforcement is not new. In 1903, the Bavarian military developed an innovative technique of spying through the use of pigeons. A tiny camera that took a picture every 30 seconds was attached to the breast area of the pigeon, which then flew behind enemy lines and eventually back to its starting point Noun 1. starting point - earliest limiting point
terminus a quo
commencement, get-go, offset, outset, showtime, starting time, beginning, start, kickoff, first - the time at which something is supposed to begin; "they got an early start"; "she knew from the while capturing photographs of an adversary's operations. Notes often were attached to the pigeons' legs to transport messages. Such use of pigeons ended when cameras were discovered underneath them; the enemy simply shot the airborne pigeons. (4) Advancements in forensic photography Forensic photography (sometimes referred to as forensic imaging or crime scene photography) is the art of producing an accurate reproduction of a crime scene or an accident scene for the benefit of a court. It is part of the process of evidence collecting. would allow law enforcement the ability to reinstitute surveillance via animals, although using pigeons may be dated.
Animals can help investigators in three ways: as witnesses, perpetrators, and victims. Each method has a different purpose.
"Witnesses who can't speak often provide the most eloquent evidence." (5) Animals serve as witnesses when they successfully place the suspect at a crime scene. For example, the victim's animal can transfer evidence, such as hair, saliva, blood, urine, or feces, (6) from the animal to the suspect or crime scene. Or, the suspect's animal can transfer it to the victim or crime scene. In one case, a female was working in her lawn. A man pulled up in his truck and forced her inside the vehicle to sexually assault her. During this offense, the victim noticed her dog urinating on the suspect's vehicle tire. Fortunately, she was able to fight off the man and phone the police. During interviews, the victim described the truck and informed officers of her observations, but she was unable to distinguish the suspect in a lineup. Investigators performed DNA testing of the dog's urine on the tire and identified a suspect who was later apprehended. (7)
In another example of the animal as a witness, a macaw macaw: see parrot.
Any of about 18 species of large tropical New World parrots (subfamily Psittacinae) with very long tails and big sickle-shaped beaks. Macaws eat fruits and nuts. helped catch a suspect in a burglary case. Blood samples from the suspect on the bird's beak and marks found on the suspect, both from the parrots' assault, were tested. Using the blood and impression evidence, police apprehended the suspect. (8) The bird not only provided physical evidence of the crime but chronological proof as well. Investigators pinpointed the exact time of the encounter after neighbors reported hearing the bird "hooting hysterically." (9)
DNA evidence Among the many new tools that science has provided for the analysis of forensic evidence is the powerful and controversial analysis of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, the material that makes up the genetic code of most organisms. obtained from a crime scene often can identify an animal involved in an attack on a human or another animal. For example, a doctor was convicted of two counts of involuntary manslaughter The act of unlawfully killing another human being unintentionally.
Most unintentional killings are not murder but involuntary manslaughter. The absence of the element of intent is the key distinguishing factor between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. , one count of reckless homicide, and one of assault after his two dogs attacked and killed a woman. The doctor's dogs were linked to the crime through animal DNA evidence. (10) In another example, a woman's cat was killed by another animal. She suspected her neighbor's dog, which she had noticed in her yard numerous times. When investigators conducted DNA tests, the culprit actually was a bobcat bobcat: see lynx.
Bobtailed, long-legged North American cat (Lynx rufus) found in forests and deserts from southern Canada to southern Mexico. It is a close relative of the lynx and caracal. , and, thus, an innocent animal's life was spared." (11)
Victims may include abused or stolen animals. (12) Investigators can match DNA evidence from a weapon to the victim in cases of abuse. Further, they can use DNA to establish rightful owners of animals. In one instance, a man was sentenced to 60 months of formal probation and restitution in the amount of $22,000 for grand theft cattle. After stealing the cattle from a ranch, the rustler rus·tle
v. rus·tled, rus·tling, rus·tles
1. To move with soft fluttering or crackling sounds.
2. To move or act energetically or with speed.
3. To forage food. rudimentarily changed the brand. During a cattle sale, the brand inspector noticed that the mark looked strange. When the rustler failed to prove ownership through invoice purchases, an investigation began. Through the use of DNA testing, investigators discovered that the cow had been born from one on the neighboring farm. (13)
With some innovation, nontraditional means of veterinary forensics also may aid investigators. Canines are not the only animals that law enforcement agencies A law enforcement agency (LEA) is a term used to describe any agency which enforces the law. This may be a local or state police, federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). can use to find narcotics narcotics n. 1) techinically, drugs which dull the senses. 2) a popular generic term for drugs which cannot be legally possessed, sold, or transported except for medicinal uses for which a physician or dentist's prescription is required. ; one department utilized potbellied pigs. According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. experts, the potbellied potbellied
abnormal relative enlargement of the abdomen. May be caused by increased size of viscera and contents, or diminution in volume of skeletal muscle, fat and fascia due to malnutrition or wastage due to parasitism. pig's sense of hearing and smell is exemplary and significantly greater than humans. (14) In one demonstration, within 30 seconds, a potbellied pig discovered a small box containing marijuana wrapped in canvas cloth. (15)
After an 18-month project, researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) (previously known at various times as Site Y, Los Alamos Laboratory, and Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory) is a United States Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratory, managed and operated by Los Alamos National in New Mexico trained bees to detect explosives. (16) Bees were exposed to the distinctive smell of explosives followed by sugar water. Through operant conditioning operant conditioning
A process of behavior modification in which a subject is encouraged to behave in a desired manner through positive or negative reinforcement, so that the subject comes to associate the pleasure or displeasure of the , the bees were trained to stick out their proboscis proboscis
elongated, flexible feeding apparatus, formed of the fused mouthparts, in some insects. when they detected the smell of explosives. (17)
In addition, fish have been used to detect potential terror attacks. Bluegills have a highly tuned monitoring system concerning chemical imbalances in their surrounding environment. As a result, they currently help safeguard major drinking water drinking water
supply of water available to animals for drinking supplied via nipples, in troughs, dams, ponds and larger natural water sources; an insufficient supply leads to dehydration; it can be the source of infection, e.g. leptospirosis, salmonellosis, or of poisoning, e.g. supplies. Using a computerized monitoring system, detection of even the slightest change in the bluegills' vital signs will send an e-mail alert to authorities to warn of potential danger. (18)
In another parrot-related case, thieves stole a parrot during a burglary. As the parrot was hauled off, the owner came out screaming, "Robbery! Robbery!" A short time later, police stopped a vehicle for a traffic violation. As the officers approached the vehicle, the parrot called out, "Robbery! Robbery!" which aroused their suspicions. A subsequent search of the vehicle revealed the stolen goods. (19)
All evidence, whether human or animal, should be collected by trained law enforcement personnel or other officials who can testify to its collection. Not only does this ensure the reliability of its collection but the continuity of the chain of custody The movement and location of physical evidence from the time it is obtained until the time it is presented in court.
Judges in bench trials and jurors in jury trials are obligated to decide cases on the evidence that is presented to them in court. . Investigators should take every possible precaution to ensure the integrity of a crime scene, including minimizing contamination by animals, which can transfer evidence and other trace materials to and from the area.
Whether functioning as victims, suspects, witnesses, or even agents of law enforcement, animals can aid investigations in a variety of ways. Although the use of veterinary forensics is still in its infancy, agencies are rapidly seeing the capabilities of the creatures around them and are using their assistance more often in an effort to curtail crime.
(3) The use of canines in law enforcement is well documented; therefore, their discussion in this article is limited.
(4) "Bavarian Pigeon Corps," The Cause (March 2002); retrieved from http://www.pitsco.com/the_cause/prev_year/02cause2eng.htm.
(6) University of California-Davis, "About Forensic DNA Testing"; retrieved from http://www.vgl.ucdavis.edu/forensics.
(7) Fresh Air, NPR NPR
In currencies, this is the abbreviation for the Nepal Rupee.
The currency market, also known as the Foreign Exchange market, is the largest financial market in the world, with a daily average volume of over US $1 trillion. , February 14, 2006.
(8) James L. McClinton, "In Search of Intelligent Life: When Birdbrains Collide," Police and Security News 22, no. 3: 96.
(10) "Doctor Sentenced for Dog-Mauling Incident"; retrieved from http://www.nbc4i.com/news/3546437.detail.html.
(11) Supra A relational DBMS from Cincom Systems, Inc., Cincinnati, OH (www.cincom.com) that runs on IBM mainframes and VAXs. It includes a query language and a program that automates the database design process. note 6.
(12) Supra note 6.
(13) Juliana Barbassa, "Cattle Rustlers Rustlers are a range of burgers and hot sandwiches produced by Kepak Convenience Foods, based in Kirkham, Lancashire. The parent company, Kepak, is based in Dublin, Ireland. Defeated by DNA"; retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/01/29/tech/main596571.shtml.
(14) Tod W. Burke, "Pot Bellied Pigs: High Quality Sniffers of Narcotics," Law and Order, September 2003.
(16) John Locher, "Bees-All They Can Be," The Washington Post, November 29, 2006.
(18) Marcus Wohlsen, "Fish Used to Detect Terror Attacks," The Police One, September 21, 2001; retrieved from http://www.policeone.com/pc_print.asp?vid=1036153.
(19) "Parrot Helped Catch Robbers"; retrieved from http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_1458355.html?menu=news.quirkies.animaltales.
For further information concerning the use of veterinary forensics in law enforcement, visit http://www.vgl.ucdavis.edu/forensics.
Mr. Yost is a graduate student at Radford University in Radford, Virginia.
Dr. Burke, a former police officer, is a professor of criminal justice at Radford University in Radford, Virginia.
BY Joseph Yost and Tod Burke, Ph.D.