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Crime scene investigator taking down people who hurt pets

by Brandy Aguilar, Special Projects

azfamily.com

Posted on December 21, 2010 at 4:56 AM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 22 at 10:33 PM

When you think of CSI, you probably don't think of animals. Meet a local crime scene investigator who is taking down the people who hurt pets.

“If I get an animal that is stabbed and I think there's something I can potentially get a mold of, especially in a bone or something, I can actually put that in there and bring it out,” said Arizona Humane Society medical services director, Dr. Nancy Bradley. “You have a flashlight or different types of black light, UV lights can establish blood or semen.”

These are just a few of the items Bradley uses when she is working on animal abuse cases here in the Valley.  Bradley’s, whose police background gives her the upper hand when dealing with these kinds of issues, also has another title, one that only a few across the country have--forensic veterinarian.
           
“The first two days of the training was blood spatter analysis,” Bradley said.

She wanted to further her knowledge in this field, so she attended a veterinary forensic science-training program at the University of Florida in November.
  
“You go out there and establish what looks abnormal,” Bradley said. “You
then go back into specific areas and you’ll rope those off and create a crime
scene.”

A part of the training included searching for signs of evidence surrounding animal remains near a forest in Gainesville, Florida.
 
“You set up a grid technique,” Bradley said. “You then process things from the ground. We use sifters and all those types of things to establish and everything has to be detailed and documented.”

Bradley along with other veterinarians and law enforcement across the country also learned how bugs and plants can be key pieces of evidence.

“Animals like ticks and flees that suck blood and mosquitoes, if you get those bugs, you can potentially get the DNA of the victim or the suspect and things like that,” Bradley said.

One of the people behind this program is top forensic veterinarian Melinda Merck. She helped in NFL star Michael Vick's dog fighting case.

“She [Dr. Melinda Merck] was able to excavate those animals and a lot of times it's just bones and that's a whole other faucet,” Bradley said “It's osteology. You have to look at the bones and the tissue and that you do in a lab setting.”

As for Bradley, her detective work has been put to good use. She was involved in the serial shooters case involving Dale Hausner and Samuel Dieteman. Several of the bullets removed from dogs during the shooting spree were connected.

“I got a really nice email from one of the detectives that basically said that five of the bullets we removed from the dogs, I guess the ballistic expert that was used in that case was able along with the human ones, was able to say was consistent with the weapon that was used,” Bradley said. “So it tied in.”

While Bradley's job can be graphic, she has seen how it's become life saving work.

“I really truly feel that if someone will do something this evil to an animal, what's going to stop them from doing that to a human or even a child,” Bradley said.

For more information go to University of Florida, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or the Arizona Humane Society.

You can also log on to Veterinary Forensics or www.vetmed.ufl.edu.

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