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Industry and academia have teamed up to create the UK’s first animal forensic lab, and one of Britain’s most disturbing cases will be their first.

A unique partnership between the University of Surrey’s School of Veterinary Medicine and ArroGen Forensics has led to the creation of ArroGen Veterinary Forensics, a service dedicated to combating crimes against animals.

One of the main goals of the program is to provide the “missing link” to prosecutors during their investigations. Currently, due to a lack of forensic veterinary expertise, many cases of animal abuse do not even proceed to prosecution. ArroGen Veterinary Forensics can change this with evidence gleaned by the program’s vet forensic experts, who are backed by research and training.

“This unique collaboration brings together experts in animal diagnostics and research with specialists who have worked within the forensic sphere of the UK human Criminal Justice system for many years,” said Jo Millington, Scientific Director and Lead Forensic Scientist at ArroGen Veterinary Forensics. “Why not apply the same principles to the investigation of animal crime? By harnessing our collective knowledge of forensic and animal science we are simply building on our existing infrastructure and experience as human medico-legal practitioners to offer a novel and focussed integrated animal forensics service.’’

Another component of the collaboration is to “develop a strong social justice agenda and deliver results that disrupt crime patterns and the evolution of animal to human criminal behavior.”

“There is a growing body of evidence to indicate that people who harm animals are more likely to abuse humans. We want to work with agencies to address the progression of animal to human criminal behavior,” said Alex Stoll, Lead Forensic Veterinary Pathologist at the University of Surrey and Operations Director at ArroGen Veterinary Forensics.

The program will work closely with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and UK police forces, including on the re-examination of the “Croydon cat killer” case. Police believe a white man in his 40s is responsible for mutilating and dismembering 250 animals since 2014, almost all of them cats.

According to The Independent, ArroGen Veterinary Forensics will use DNA to try and hunt down the cat killer, as well as determine exactly how many cats have been killed by the culprit, excluding those that may have been attacked by wild animals.

There are also efforts in veterinary forensics in the United States. For example, the New York City Police Department has partnered with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for almost four years. Since the NYPD took over responsibility for the city’s animal cruelty complaints from the ASPCA’s now-disbanded law enforcement unit in 2014, more animals have been rescued, more animal abusers have been prosecuted and the increased caseload means experts have been able to gain more insight into the nature of animal cruelty and how to respond to it.

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