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VACTF Manual - Chapter 1: Be Prepared Ahead of Time

Expert Witnesses

Overview

One of the best ways to build a strong animal cruelty case is to support your case with experts dedicated to animal welfare.

In most circumstances, your best expert witnesses are veterinarians. They have extensive knowledge of animals and can testify to the fact that an animal was malnourished, diseased, suffering, etc.

In addition to veterinarians, a person can testify as an expert witness if he knows more about a given subject than the average individual. Anyone can be qualified as an expert if the court finds that the person possesses knowledge, either through experience, training, or both, that would be helpful in determining the facts of the case. Be aware that sometimes the witness must have the judgeís approval to be considered an expert witness in order to testify at trial as to certain opinions and facts.

The following are examples of expert witnesses:

  • Veterinary technicians
  • Reputable dog trainers or animal behaviorists
  • Reputable breeders
  • Farriers (blacksmith/horse shoer)
  • Reputable horse breeders or stable owners
  • Wildlife rehabilitators

What to do

When you investigate the case, assemble your expert witnesses. A case of animal cruelty is very difficult to prove in a criminal trial without expert testimony.

You might use them at the actual scene when you are making initial observations, executing a search warrant, or you might use them after the animal has been seized. We recommend the following:

  • Call a local veterinarian whom you know and request that he assist you by examining the animals and providing a sworn statement as to their condition (See example in Appendix III, Forms & Supplies List).

  • Ask the veterinarian and the local humane society staff for the names of any additional expert witnesses.

  • Call those witnesses and ask if they would assist and possibly be willing to sign a statement with regard to the condition of the animals.

NOTE: A "Veterinarian's Statement" form can be used to document an animalís condition and dispositions. (See Appendix III, Forms & Supplies List, "Veterinarianís Statement") Make photo copies and provide them to the veterinarian. They will make his job easier, especially if there are numerous animals involved, and will provide you with a consistent documentation format to give to the DSA.

« State's Attorney's Office Photographic Evidence »

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