Forensic veterinarians from all over the world are gathering in Portland for their annual convention. It's become a growing field especially in Oregon where there are some of the toughest animal abuse laws in the country.
A forensic veterinarian is crucial to the prosecution of animal abuse cases. They can speak to the pain and suffering that the victims can't.
Pets are treated and cared for at the Oregon Humane Society's Medical Center. Behind the scenes there is also a team of four forensic veterinarians who look for evidence of abuse and neglect.
They are crime solvers, asking questions of the victims they treat.
"What happened to you? How did it happen? When did it happen? So, it's putting the puzzle together and using your veterinary knowledge," said Dr. Kris Otteman.
Dr. Otteman directs the forensics program at the Oregon Humane Society. She is also one of the first forensic vets in the country.
Physical head to toe exams tell a story, and full body X-rays do as well.
In one case, a cat named Bella was injured and her owner said she fell from a bed and then he claimed he fell on top of her.
However, Dr. Otteman says the story and the X-rays didn't match up. And there was evidence of past repeated injuries too.
It turned out that Bella's owner had kicked her and then thrown her against the wall. Bella eventually healed and went to a new owner.
Bella's abuser pleaded guilty to first-degree animal abuse. He was also accused of domestic violence against his human partner.
"There's a link between human crime and human violence and animal violence," said Dr. Otteman.
Dr. Otteman also helped solve the case of Harvey, a pomeranian. He had multiple fractures and his owner said a table fell on the dog. But the evidence pointed to abuse by Harvey's owner.
"We were able to understand that the person became angry with the dog and had injured the dog and was cited for animal abuse," said Dr. Otteman.
As troubling as the cases are, they can be gratifying to work on.
"Seeing the animals turn around and get well and get into homes, and then justice for them was magnificent.
Animal abuse in Oregon can be a felony with up to five years of jail time. However, few convicted animal abusers ever go to jail.
The 11th annual Veterinary Forensic Sciences Conference is happened May 16-18 at the Hilton Portland Downtown.
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