What to do
HERE are some pointers gleaned from the Animal Welfare Legislation and Crime Scene Investigation workshop conducted by Glyn Roberts, founder of Global Animal Welfare Solutions, a British-based organisation which conducts training in animal welfare and law enforcement for NGOs, animal shelters and organisations around the world. Investigation planning and control.
What do you hope to achieve? What are the possible offences? Get the exact legal terms. Be mindful of the “who, when, where, how, why”. What about possible defences? Are the excuses reasonable or valid? Look into initial evidence or information, and the actual evidence. Take photographs and not just of the abused animal. Make notes that are clear, logical and legible. Draw a plan – it helps in complex investigations. What to look out for in a crime scene when an animal is suspected to have been abused.
Evidence on the site that needs to be photographed and recorded includes chains, knives, cages, traps, preserved tissues such as blood samples, documentary evidence like letters, photos, certificates, written notes, videos or even X-rays of an injured animal. Just like real CSI cases involving human victims, the evidence is collected, bagged and tagged inside plastic bags that are labelled. How do you prove that an animal is suffering or in pain?
Here’s where statements from experts add credibility and strength. Roberts recalls a case in Britain where a dog was left inside a car while his owner went shopping. As the temperature rose, the dog almost got cooked inside the car.
“Investigators took the temperature inside the car, and consulted a meteorologist,” says Roberts. “The owner argued in his defence that it was an isolated incident and a case of ‘freak weather’. But evidence showing it had been near 40°C all week long threw his defence out of the window.”
Some of the experts you may need to support a case include the vet, dog trainer, groomer, lawyer, meteorologist, animal nutritionist, SPCA inspector and a reputable breeder. Photographing cruelty cases
Good quality images are essential in capturing the crime scene. They are also useful in refreshing your memory when writing a report or testifying in court. The press will need good quality photographs, too. Here are some tips:
> Practise with your equipment and ensure battery and memory card are in order, and kept with equipment needed such as exhibit numbers, measuring tape and notebook.
> Photograph the animal against a plain, uncluttered background so that its abuse or skeletal frame is visible. If the animal is rescued and its wounds have healed, take a “before” and “after” photograph.
> Ensure the flash does not bounce back when photographing through a glass window.
> At a scene where there is more than one animal, carry out a brief inspection first. Start with the worst conditions or the animal that is in the most sorry state. Number the cages and/or animals to show continuity. Try to draw a plan of the site as you go along. Remember, people in court have not been to the crime scene, so you need to recreate the scene and present it to them.
Start with a picture of the location. Concentrate on individual cages and animals. Zoom in on injuries or markings – such as infected wounds – on the animals.
Look around the scene to see what else supports your evidence of abuse or neglect. Uncollected newspapers indicate the owners have been away for a while. n Members of the public are advised to lodge a police report before submitting any animal abuse case to the SPCA in their state or the Department of Veterinary Services (03-8870 2000 / firstname.lastname@example.org / www.dvs.gov.my). Check out SPCA Selangor at www.spca.org.my or call its public relations department and inspectorate (03-4253 5312 10am-6pm daily). More details at the Global Animal Welfare Solutions website (www.gaws.co.uk).