Animal Abuse and Unlawful Killing

Forensic veterinary pathology


  • Ranald Munro, BVMS, MSc, DVM, Dip Forensic Medicine, DipECVP, MRCVS, Professor of Forensic Veterinary Pathology, Royal Veterinary College, London, UK
  • Helen Munro, BVMS, MRCVS, Honorary Fellow, The University of Edinburgh Veterinary School, UK

This book guides veterinarians and lawyers through the diverse and complex fields of alleged cruelty to, and unlawful killing of, companion animals, farm livestock and wildlife. It draws together current knowledge on how to approach, investigate and report forensic cases.
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Book information

  • Published: June 2008
  • Imprint: SAUNDERS
  • ISBN: 978-0-7020-2878-6

Table of Contents


Definition of forensic veterinary pathology – a developing specialty.

The relationship between the forensic veterinary pathologist and the courts.
Why do it?

The forensic examination and report

The locus: types of loci, value of attending at the locus, notes and photographs * The forensic necropsy procedure: standard procedures, avoidance of pitfalls, natural disease
Interpretation of findings *Report writing: plain English, formatting and numbering

Estimation of the post mortem interval * Rigor mortis, post mortem changes including adipocere and mummification, immunohistochemistry, entomology and environmental clues

Wounds and other injuries

Superficial injuries: skin wounds including abrasions, incisions, lacerations and stab wounds * Bruising and haemorrhage * Internal injuries: blunt trauma; penetrating wounds; head; thoracic; abdominal; pelvic and limb injuries

Non- accidental injury

Terminology and definitions * Features that raise suspicion * Links to violence in the home * Limitations on application of current knowledge to non-companion animals
Asphyxia and Drowning

Definition of asphyxia * General features * Strangulation, Choking & Smothering, Suffocation & Crush Asphyxia, Poisonous gases, Smoke inhalation, Drowning


Types of weapons and ammunition: air rifles, shotguns, rifles and crossbows * Firearm injuries: air rifle pellets wounds, shotgun pellet wounds, high and low velocity rifle bullet wounds

Traps and snares

Illegal use of traps and snares * Injuries caused by spring traps * Injuries caused by snares * Deaths in cage traps

Dog bite injuries

Injuries to hares killed during hare coursing * Injuries to roe deer seized by dogs * Injuries to domestic livestock following stock worrying


Necropsy features raising suspicion of chemical poisoning

Thermal injuries

Burns and scalds * Pathologic features in cats fatally injured in microwave ovens and tumble dryers * Electrocution * Heatstroke *Frostbite


Dogs, cats, other domestic pets and livestock: deprivation of the normal necessities of life * Lack of veterinary treatment: chronic lameness in livestock; neglected injuries; neoplasia; diarrhoea; loss of weight * Sexual abuse * Terminology * Types of injuries in companion animals * Objects used * Estimation of the age of lesions * Bruises, healing wounds, fractures, peri-osteal responses * Use of histopathology in forensic cases * Confirmation or exclusion of specific changes or lesions.
Smoke inhalation