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VIN CE Course MULT219-0813: Handling Large Scale Cruelty Cases: From Planning to Prosecution

Enrollment is closed.

INSTRUCTOR(S): Melinda Merck, DVM and Diane Robinson
COURSE OPEN: August 6-September 6, 2013
REAL TIME SESSIONS (RTS): Tuesdays, August 13, 20 and 27; 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, and support staff actively interested in and/or currently involved in the investigation of animal cruelty cases.
VIN CE Course: Open to veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and support staff. This course has been RACE approved for veterinarians and veterinary technicians.

Course Description:
This course is designed to provide the veterinarian and other responders with key information on how to plan and execute a large scale cruelty response. Though similar to disaster protocols, these legal cases present certain important issues. The topics include the beginning stages of planning, development of teams, animal processing and sheltering. Since there are often deceased animals found including burials, the topic of burial detection and excavation will be covered. Each case presents unique challenges and the sessions will cover the considerations that should be taken before and during a response.

This course consists of three (3) 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."

Diane Robinson began her career in disaster rescue and sheltering of animals when she joined American Humane Association's Red Star Animal Emergency Services Response program in 2007. Having been involved with Douglas County Search and Rescue team in Colorado and a life time of work with animals it seemed like a perfect blend of desire to make a positive difference for people and animals.

Diane worked for over ten years in public education and in 2001 completed a master's degree in education and went to work as a public school teacher in a program requiring the regular development of student driven curriculum. The five years she spent in this program helped to hone her skills writing course work which was used to develop the Basic Animal Emergency Services student guide and training materials. In 2012 the course was approved for addition to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Colorado State sponsored course guide.

In 2010, Diane developed "Disaster Sheltering for Companion Animals" which quickly became the most demanded and attended course in the Emergency Services training series. Over the past three years the course has gone on to train hundreds of people and organizations throughout the country and is currently being reviewed for training approval by DHS.

In nearly six years as part of the Red Star team Diane deployed to a multitude of disasters ranging from floods and hurricanes to legal seizures, including a high profile forensic case in Whistler, BC. Her experience first as a responder capturing and caring for the animals affected by disaster then as Shelter Supervisor provided her with real life experience which she uses to apply to the training programs and disaster planning services to assist communities, organizations and emergency management.

Course Outline:
Week 1 (Real Time Session August 13, 2013): Scene Processing and Examination of the Animals
Instructor(s): Melinda Merck, DVM
Content: This session will cover the details of how to assess and process a large scale cruelty scene. The preplanning for these types of cases will be covered including developing medical teams, removal teams, triage and exam considerations.

Week 2 (Real Time Session August 20, 2013): Animal Sheltering for Criminal Cases
Instructor(s): Diane Robinson (Disaster Animal Shelter Education and Response)
Content: This session will cover the considerations for the setup and operation of an animal shelter for legal cases. It will outline special considerations for working with these animals, paperwork and recordkeeping, intake procedure, setup and care.

Week 3 (Real Time Session August 27, 2013): Clandestine Burial Detection, Excavation and Surface Remains
Instructor(s): Melinda Merck, DVM
Content: This session will cover characteristics of hidden burials, how to process the scene, burial mapping and excavation techniques.


Tuition: $120 ($108 early bird special if enrolled by July 23, 2013)

*To ensure participants are ready and prepared for classes, enrollment will close at 5pm ET 8/15/2013 or when the maximum number of participants is reached.

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

Enrollment is closed.
  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 6 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 VSPN's upcoming CE courses, check the VSPN 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

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