Witness Testimony - Animal Law Source

Witness Testimony

Witness Testimony

ALS-Role of Veterinarian

  • Veterinarians fill a special role in the development of animal cruelty cases
  • Veterinarians are necessary in order to establish the extent of the animal’s injury or how much pain the animal experienced
  • Importance of reports and testimony by Veterinarians and Veterinarian Technicians

Reports and testimony can be crucial to explain what happened to an animal that has been injured or killed fromabuse

Veterinarians are typically highly respected within their communities and their testimony, either as direct or expert witnesses, can typically be very convincing

Can be used to counter defenses the offender might offer concerning the behavior or temperament of the animal

May also provide a compelling community standard as to what reasonable or prudent care should be

  • Professional Roles of Veterinarians

Noting the physical condition of the animal and how they respond to treatment

Offering opinions on what reasonably prudent actions and care standards could have been done in order to prevent disease, injury or death including preventative care such as vaccinations

Identifying the cause of death if needed, what order injuries occurred in, and identifying which injuries happened before death and which happened after

Providing expert opinion on whether an animal’s death resulted from human action or otherwise or whether the death was intended or accidental

Finding and preserving physical evidence that may point to a given suspect (such as projectiles, trace evidence, etc.)

Giving an opinion on how quickly the animal became unconscious or died to establish humaneness

Veterinarians should also not simply note the medical condition of the animal at the outset of the investigation, they should also note:

The animal’s temperament

The recovery speed and/or deterioration of animals over time

Note: The defendant may make use of their own veterinarians as witnesses of prior care

This may actually aid the prosecution however by highlighting the differences between provided evidence and the current conditions which brought about thecharges

If help is needed with cross-examining defense experts and acquiring documentation of such experts contact the NCPAA (need link)

  • Other Expert Testimony that may be required to aid in clarification of events or challenge defense theories

May include

Veterinary specialists (e.g. pathologists or toxicologists)

Veterinary behaviorists/certified applied animal behaviorists to speak on behavioral issues

“Link” Experts, typically during sentencing, to explain research which supports a link between a defendant committing crimes against animals and their willingness to commit crimes against people

May also include

DNA Specialists

Ballistics experts


If the case involves livestock contacting industry experts may be useful to establish if the offender wentagainst accepted practice

Agencies other than law enforcement that have had to become involved may also participate in the prosecution of animal abuse cases such as

Mental health professionals

Healthcare workers

Sanitation and Fire professionals

Psychologists or other therapists should also be considered as they can give the court information on whether the offender needs treatment and available options for treatment

  • Other Community Witnesses

Neighbors/other members of the community often know a good deal about the offender’s treatment of their animals

Their testimony may be useful to establish a pattern of intentional cruelty based on any observations they may have made

Thus such individuals should be interviewed and prepared to testify

People to consider

Letter carriers

Delivery personnel

Utility workers

Pet sitters



  • Animal Victim in Court

Currently, no state law addresses whether animal victims may be present in court

Prosecutors should determine whether bringing an animal victim to court would be beneficial or not

If it could be helpful prosecutors should ask the court’s permission first due to its unusualness

A valuable distinction that would aid the request would be that animals have legal protection from being victims despite their status as property

If you want to use the animal itself as evidence it is important to make a pre-trial motion outlining your request