May 24, 2017

ASPCA Takes Center Stage at Annual Veterinary Forensic Sciences Conference

Dr. Robert Riesman examining dog bones

The ASPCA is a nationwide leader in the growing field of veterinary forensics, and our groundbreaking work was on full display last week at the 10th Annual Veterinary Forensic Sciences Conference in New York City. Held between May 16 and 18 at The Westin in Times Square, the conference gathered experts in veterinary medicine, law enforcement, criminal prosecution, forensic science, animal welfare and human social services to explore multi-disciplinary approaches to saving more victims of animal cruelty and ensuring successful investigations and prosecutions of abusers.

The conference kicked off with a speech by International Veterinary Forensic Science Association (IVFSA) President Dr. Rachel Touroo, who is also the Senior Director of Forensic Sciences at the ASPCA.

Dr. Rachel Touroo
Dr. Rachel Touroo, IVFSA President and Senior Director of Forensic Sciences at the ASPCA

“This is an extraordinary and historic occasion which would not have been possible without the support of the ASPCA,” she said, before emphasizing how much the field of veterinary forensics has flourished in the ten years since the conference was founded, as evidenced by changes in law, an increase in peer-reviewed publications, texts, graduate courses and the inclusion of the topic in leading conferences within various disciplines.

Dr. Touroo’s speech was followed up with a greeting from ASPCA President & CEO Matt Bershadker, who spoke about the ASPCA’s commitment to veterinary forensics as a powerful tool in the rescue and protection of vulnerable animals.

“Forensic work is the foundation of animal cruelty investigations. It has the power to confirm what happened, who did it and how it was done,” he said. “The result of that work is invaluable evidence to prosecutors and a powerful tool in the rescue and protection of vulnerable animals.”

ASPCA President & CEO Matt Bershadker
ASPCA President & CEO Matt Bershadker

Mr. Bershadker also announced that the ASPCA recently hired a forensic veterinarian in Miami to assist Miami-Dade animal services in its handling of cruelty cases, and that our New York City team examined nearly 1,000 animal victims last year alone.

Over the ensuing days, several other ASPCA representatives spoke at the conference about topics ranging from common legal issues that arise in animal cruelty investigations and prosecutions to a discussion about the link between domestic violence and animal abuse.

During a keynote address by NYPD Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill, special attention was given to our life-saving partnership with the NYPD. “We are very grateful for the ASPCA’s partnership, and the animals of this city are benefiting tremendously from it,” said Commissioner O’Neill.

The Commissioner’s remarks were followed by a talk from Howard Lawrence, VP of Humane Law Enforcement at the ASPCA, who spoke about how the partnership successfully integrates response to animal cruelty and distress into the NYPD’s regular law enforcement duties.

Dr. Robert Riesman of the ASPCA gives a tour of the Forensic Facility.
Dr. Robert Riesman of the ASPCA gives a tour of the Forensic Facility.

On May 18, the conference ended with a tour of the ASPCA’s Animal Hospital and Animal Recovery Center (ARC), Forensic Facility and Adoption Center. “Our sincere hope is that each of you will leave this conference with new ideas to create or enhance models in your own community that further your ability to successfully combat animal cruelty,” said Dr. Touroo.

In all, the conference drew 335 attendees from 13 countries—more than triple the attendance from the previous year—and was an incredible testament to the far reach of the ASPCA’s work in this important, expanding scientific field.