Introducing forensic entomology in cases of suspected animal neglect

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Abstract

Cases of arthropod-infested, abandoned or abused animals are sometimes brought to the attention of veterinarians by animal welfare authorities, with the requirement for a full postmortem examination towards criminal or civil proceedings. In these situations, entomology is an important support tool for the pathologists’ investigation since the presence of arthropod life cycle stages serve as reliable forensic markers, especially for blowflies which form the first waves of activity following death. In the present study, 70 cadavers from a total of 544 referred to the Institute of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool, between 2009 and 2014 displayed evidence of infestation. Here, the authors introduce principles of applied entomology and simplified approaches for estimating the minimum time since death, relevant in the context of routine submissions and the broad remit of individual cases. Despite often limited availability of scene of the crime and local thermal data, the interpretation of the minimum postmortem interval has nonetheless proved valuable as an adjunct to the expert pathology report. However, future developments and enhanced accuracy in this area of animal welfare require resource and training in expertise, and agreed standardisation of both laboratory and field procedures.

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