19 January 2018

Approach to animal abuse one step closer with founding of Veterinary Forensic Expert Centre

In the Netherlands, research indicates that there is a relationship between animal abuse and domestic violence. Research in America and England has actually proven a link between the two. Unfortunately, recognising signs of animal abuse is a relatively new field, and is often difficult to accomplish. The Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Utrecht University has therefore launched the Veterinary Forensic Expert Centre (in Dutch: Landelijk Expertisecentrum Dierenmishandeling, LED) to offer an approach that combines veterinary medicine with forensics.

Starting in 2011, the Netherlands took some major steps forward in dealing with animal abuse and neglect by implementing a number of measures and adopting improved, stricter enforcement.

Recognition

Recognising animal abuse is a relatively new aspect of veterinary medicine, and is often difficult to accomplish. For example, bruises on animals are less visible than they are on humans, due to the animal’s fur. The expert centre combines the knowledge of specialist veterinarians with that of forensic medical experts. Veterinarians who suspect incidents of animal abuse can upload the relevant information anonymously via a secure website. The specialists at the Veterinary Forensic Expert Centre can then analyse this information to determine if it is an indication of animal abuse or of rare or common diseases, accidents or the consequences of the behaviour of the animal itself or of other animals. This expert panel’s combined evaluation serves as a diagnosis that meets the strictest requirements, and prevents the veterinarian from coming to the wrong conclusion about his or her suspicions. The veterinarian can then report the issue with sufficient evidence to the police, if necessary, who will then further investigate the case.

Relationship with domestic violence

The relationship between animal abuse and domestic violence is so strong that indications of animal abuse can serve as an ‘early warning sign’ of the development of psychopathology in children and adults. Early intervention is essential in order to prevent more serious abuse from occurring in the future. “Animal Welfare is very important to our society,” says Dean Wouter Dhert of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. “The expert centre can address these concerns in society at large by providing information about the issue and raising awareness.”

Research

The staff of the Veterinary Forensic Expert Centre will work with criminologists and psychologists to conduct scientific research into the phenomenon of animal abuse in the Netherlands.

The driving forces behind the Veterinary Forensic Expert Centre were Utrecht University’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Bureau Beke and the Dutch Forensic Institute. The founding of the institute was made possible in part by funding from the Ministry of Justice & Security, Nature & Food Quality, and the Royal Dutch Association for the Protection of Dogs.

More information

If you would like more information about the Veterinary Forensic Expert Centre, please call us at tel.: +31 30 253 4722 or +31 30 253 1565.