VIN VSPN CE Portal Course Catalogs Course Archives Practice Area Participant Resources Suggestion Box
Back Print Save Bookmark in my Browser


VIN CE Course MULT218-0113: Advanced Topics in Veterinary Forensic Science

Enrollment is closed.

Melinda Merck, DVM
Sharon M. Gwaltney-Brant, DVM, PhD, DABVT, DABT
Diane Balkin, JD

COURSE OPEN: January 23-April 6, 2013
REAL TIME SESSIONS (RTS): Wednesdays, January 30, February 6, 13, break, 27, March 6, 13, 20 and 27, 2013; 9:00-11:00 pm ET (USA)
Course RTS Times in Your Area: World Clock Converter

Practice Sessions: In order to prepare you for a successful experience in your CE course, we request you attend a Practice Session prior to the first Real Time Session. Please arrive promptly at the start time; each Practice Session is up to 1 hour in length. For more information, please visit the CE Practice Area.

*The instructors for this course will be using audio which will require you to have a headset or speakers to listen. If you have any concerns regarding your computer's audio capabilities, please be sure to attend one of the Practice Sessions.

Level and Prerequisites: This advanced course will be open to veterinarians, veterinary technicians, support staff, veterinary teams, etc. actively interested and/or currently involved in the investigation of animal cruelty cases.
Participation in prior veterinary forensics course is desired but not required. Selected library materials from the 2011 Veterinary Forensics online CE will be made available to registered participants to review prior to the start of this advanced course.
VIN CE Course: Open to veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and veterinary support staff. This course has been RACE approved for veterinarians and veterinary technicians.

Course Description:
The veterinary profession is being increasingly challenged to recognize, report and document animal abuse and cruelty as it is encountered in their practices, and to assist law enforcement in the prosecution of these cases. This advanced course builds upon the prior Veterinary Forensics course, focusing on more in-depth discussion of evidence collection, forensic and necropsy examination findings and interpretation, report writing, legal issues and expert witness testimony. Coordination and management of investigations involving large numbers of animals will also be discussed.

This course consists of eight (8) 2-hour Real Time Session, supplemental library materials, interactive message board discussions, and a mandatory end-of-course test. Successful completion (scoring 80% or better) on the end-of-course test is required to earn a certificate of completion for the course.

*The lecture portion of this course will be an audio presentation, please be prepared to listen.

Upon completion of this course, the participant should be able to Course Materials: Course materials will be available in the course library prior to each Real Time Session.

Required Textbook(s): There is no required textbook for this course.
Recommended Textbook(s): About the Instructors:
Melinda Merck is a forensic veterinarian consulting on cases involving animals. Dr. Merck assists investigators of animal cruelty with crime scene investigation as well as the examination of live and deceased victims. She helps with large scale operations including exhumations of burial sites and examination of skeletal animal remains. She frequently testifies as a veterinary forensic expert for animal cruelty cases around the country, including cases involving animal fighting, neglect and trauma. She formerly worked for the ASPCA as Senior Director of Veterinary Forensic Sciences.

Dr. Merck frequently provides training for veterinary, attorney and law enforcement professionals internationally on the use of veterinary medical knowledge in the investigation and prosecution of animal cruelty cases. She teaches workshops on animal crime scenes and the processing of burial and surface remains. She is a member of the American Academy of Forensic Science and the International Association of Blood Stain Analysts. In addition, Dr. Merck applies her expertise to animal disaster responses by providing training in Disaster Sheltering for American Humane Association. She is a member of their Red Star Emergency Services disaster team.

Dr. Merck is a member of the Board of Directors for North American Veterinary Conference and is Program Chair of the Veterinary Forensic Science track. Dr. Merck is a founding member of the Board of Directors for the International Veterinary Forensic Sciences Association. She is the author of the textbook, "Veterinary Forensic Investigation of Animal Cruelty: A Guide for Veterinarians and Law Enforcement."

Sharon Gwaltney-Brant is a Toxicology Consultant on VIN, adjunct faculty member of the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, and private consultant on veterinary pathology, veterinary toxicology and veterinary forensic sciences. She was formerly Vice President & Medical Director of ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. Dr Gwaltney-Brant received her DVM from North Carolina State University and her PhD in Veterinary Pathology from Kansas State University. She holds board certification from the American Board of Veterinary Toxicology and the American Board of Toxicology. Dr. Gwaltney-Brant has lectured extensively on veterinary toxicology, veterinary pathology and veterinary forensic sciences at regional, national and international conferences. She is the author of more than 50 first-author peer-reviewed publications and is co-editor of the textbook "Small Animal Clinical Toxicology Essentials." Dr. Gwaltney-Brant is Immediate Past President of the International Veterinary Forensic Sciences Association.

Diane Balkin worked for 32 years in the Denver District Attorney's Office where she served as the "animal crimes" prosecutor who ensured effective investigations and aggressive prosecutions of animal cruelty cases within her jurisdiction. She has also been involved in prosecutions in crimes involving juveniles, domestic violence and the elderly. Since her retirement from the Denver District Attorney's Office, Diane works as a contract attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Diane received her J.D. in 1977 from the University of Denver and is a nationally ranked lecturer on animal cruelty investigations and prosecutions with a strong emphasis on training veterinarians. Diane is the current President of the International Veterinary Forensic Sciences Association.

Course Outline:
Week 1 (Real Time Session January 30): Crime Scene Investigation & Evidence Collection and Packaging
Instructor(s): Melinda Merck, DVM and Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, DVM, PhD, DABVT
Content: Veterinarian's role at the crime scene, animal handling at the scene, general crime scene processing, environmental data, burial scenes, evidence recognition and documentation, evidence collection and packaging, chain of custody of evidence.

Week 2 (Real Time Session February 6): Postmortem Changes (physical changes, chemistry etc changes)
Instructor(s): Melinda Merck, DVM and Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, DVM, PhD, DABVT
Content: Physical postmortem changes, postmortem serum biochemistry changes, determining postmortem interval.

Week 3 (Real Time Session February 13): Blunt Force Injury & Sharp Force Injury
Instructor(s): Melinda Merck, DVM and Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, DVM, PhD, DABVT
Content: Bruising/contusions, abrasions, lacerations, ligature injuries, avulsion injuries, fractures, motor vehicle injuries, fall injuries, dragging injuries, grooming associated injuries. Stab wounds, chop wounds, mutilations, predator attacks, ritualistic crimes.

*** BREAK February 20 ***

Week 4 (Real Time Session February 27): Blood Sports & Gunshots & Sexual Abuse
Instructor(s): Melinda Merck, DVM and Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, DVM, PhD, DABVT
Content: Overview of animal fighting, dog fighting crime scene evidence, dog fighting paraphernalia, dog fighting lesions, cockfighting. Firearms and ballistics overview, exit vs. entrance wounds, determination of gunshot range, evaluation of gunshot victims. Index of suspicion for sexual abuse cases, examination findings and procedures.

Week 5 (Real Time Session March 6): Asphyxia & Poisoning
Instructor(s): Diane Balkin, JD, Melinda Merck, DVM and Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, DVM, PhD, DABVT, DABT
Content: Overview of asphyxia, general findings, suffocation vs. strangulation vs. mechanical asphyxia, drowning.

Week 6 (Real Time Session March 13): Testimony & Legal Issues
Instructor(s): Diane Balkin, JD, Melinda Merck, DVM and Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, DVM, PhD, DABVT, DABT
Content: Overview of role of expert witness, judicial procedures and testimony considerations. Provide awareness of legal issues related to animal cruelty cases.

Week 7 (Real Time Session March 20): Neglect & Large Scale Investigations
Instructor(s): Melinda Merck, DVM and Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, DVM, PhD, DABVT, DABT
Content: Examination of the environment, malnutrition, heat stroke, hypothermia, embedded collars, untreated injuries. Coordination and management of large scale investigations, animal hoarders and animal sanctuaries, puppy mills

Week 8 (Real Time Session March 27): Report Writing & Abuse or Not Abuse?
Instructor(s): Melinda Merck, DVM and Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, DVM, PhD, DABVT, DABT
Content: How to compile and develop legal forensic report, interpretation of findings and considerations forming conclusions. When is abuse not abuse-differentiation of lesions of 'non-cruelty'.


Tuition: Member $320 ($288 early bird special if enrolled by January 9, 2013)
Non-Member $459 ($413 early bird special if enrolled by January 9, 2013)

*To ensure participants are ready and prepared for classes, enrollment will close when the maximum number of participants is reached or at 5pm ET the day of the first Real Time Session unless otherwise noted. If the first Real Time Session is on a weekend, course enrollment will close on the Friday before the first Real Time Session.

*For more information on how online CE works, see the Participant Resource Center.

  1. Enrollment qualifications: VIN CE courses are open to VIN member and non-member veterinarians. Veterinarians enrolling in a VSPN CE course must be a VIN member. Veterinary support staff must be a VSPN member to enroll in a VSPN CE or a VIN CE course open to VSPN member enrollment.
  2. Each enrollee must be able to receive emails from and addresses. Email is our major form of communication with participants; personal emails are highly recommended rather than clinic/hospital email addresses.
  3. Each person is individually responsible for his/her own registration. To ensure that all information received is secure and correct, please do not enroll for a course on behalf of another individual.
  4. For further assistance call 1-800-700-INFO (4636) or email (VIN CE) or (VSPN CE) Please include the course title, your full name, and contact information in your correspondence.
*Note: "This course is approved for 16 continuing education credits in jurisdictions which recognize AAVSB RACE approval; however participants should be aware that some boards have limitations on the number of hours accepted in certain categories and/or restrictions on certain methods of delivery of continuing education." Call VSPN/VIN CE at 1-800-700-4636 for further information. (Attendees are encouraged to check with their licensing jurisdiction(s) for information regarding recognition by their board).

Course withdrawal and refund policy: A complete refund of the paid course price will be issued when your withdrawal request is received prior to the listed start date of the course. If you wish to withdraw after the start date please contact the VIN/VSPN office 1-800-700-INFO (4636) to discuss eligibility for a pro-rated refund.
* Note: To ensure rapid handling of your request for withdrawal, we recommend that you call the VIN/VSPN office at 1-800-700-INFO (4636).

*For more information on VIN's upcoming CE courses, check the VIN Course Catalog.

Katherine James, DVM, PhD, DACVIM (SAIM)
VIN Education Coordinator

VIN CE Services:
1-800-846-0028 or 1-530-756-4881 or direct line to VIN/VSPN from the United Kingdom: 01452226154
Andrea Pomposo (; ext 126
Debbie Friedler (; ext 756
Heather Schoffstall (; ext 116
Jennifer Boyle (; ext 169
Peggy Hall (; ext. 195

800.700.4636  |  |  530.756.4881  |  Fax: 530.756.6035
777 West Covell Blvd, Davis, CA 95616

Copyright 2002, Veterinary Information Network, Inc.