Officials from the Columbus Division of Police and multiple county sheriff’s offices gathered in a makeshift classroom Thursday to learn about animal cruelty.
Columbus is the last of four Ohio cities to be visited by the Humane Society of the United States, a tour aimed at helping local law enforcement better handle such cases.
Veterinary forensics expert Dr. Melinda Merck says this sort of education isn't covered in depth at the academy.
"If they touch on it, they don't have the curriculum to actually teach it," Merck says. "It varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, whether or not it's included in their police academies."
That's something the Humane Society wants to change. Ohio is one of four states chosen for the three-year program, with each year's class building on the one before. Merck says the day-long training covers crime scene analysis, burial detection, and the link between animal cruelty and interpersonal violence.
"The FBI has been tracking this through their behavioral analysis unit, and they found that link: whether it's animal fighting or blunt force trauma or gun shots, neglect, sexual abuse of animals, linked with child pornography and domestic violence," Merck says.
Even if an animal isn't the victim of the crime, this sort of forensic analysis can lead law enforcement to perpetrators.
"Animal evidence can be linked to crimes against humans because animals have fur," Merck says. "There may be urine or feces at a scene. They can actually find animal evidence on a person and put them back on a particular crime scene."