May 26, 2016

ASPCA Helps Researchers Demonstrate Differences between Accidents and Abuse

ASPCA Helps Researchers Demonstrate Differences between Accidents and Abuse

Most ASPCA supporters are familiar with our life-saving rescue operations and cruelty intervention initiatives for animals. But what many of you may not know is that we are also deeply involved in veterinary research, forensic investigations and the study of animal abuse. In fact, much of our behind-the-scenes work has paved the way for breakthroughs in public policy, legal advocacy and other fields within the animal welfare community. That’s why we want to share the news of significant findings in a recent study of blunt-force trauma and accidental and non-accidental animal injuries.

The joint study, conducted by the ASPCA and the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, was published online in the Journal of Forensic Sciences and will appear in print in September, and the ASPCA’s own Forensic Science Supervisor, Dr. Robert Reisman, D.V.M., is a co-author.

Comparing data from 50 criminal cases of animal abuse provided by the ASPCA and 426 motor vehicle accident cases from the Foster Hospital for Small Animals at Cummings School, researchers demonstrated different injury patterns in abused animals and animals hit by cars. This means that, without having witnessed the incident, veterinarians presented with injured animals can more readily determine whether the animal was a victim of an accident or of cruelty.

According to a press release issued by Tufts, the study found that abused animals generally had more damage to their head, ribs, teeth and claws. Pets involved in motor vehicle accidents tended to suffer skin abrasions, lung collapses and bruising and hind end injuries. They also found that victims of non-accidental injury were more likely to have evidence of older fractures, a pattern that is similarly seen in human abuse cases.

“The forensic veterinarian’s job is to use scientific evidence to tell the story of an animal victim of cruelty. This study serves as a valuable tool in that process,” said Dr. Reisman, who leads the five-person veterinary forensic sciences team that supports the NYPD/ASPCA Partnership. “This study contributes to the expanding body of research in the growing field of veterinary forensic medicine and will help forensic veterinarians continue to give a voice to the voiceless.”

Although the Journal of Forensic Sciences is primarily dedicated to human forensic sciences, the findings of this study are quite significant for both animals and the scientific community at large. Visit Tufts.edu for more information on this important research.