University of Florida Offers Program in Veterinary Forensic Sciences

It sounds like CSI: Animal Victims Unit. The world's first-ever program in veterinary forensic sciences is set to graduate its first class at the University of Florida.

The "Veterinary Forensic Sciences Graduate Certificate," offered only by the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Maples Center for Forensic Medicine at UF, is set to be awarded to the spring 2013 graduating class. The certificate has only been available for four semesters.

"This program was conceived as a result of constant requests from veterinarians and law enforcement to work on animal cases," said Jason Byrd, Ph.D and Director of Education. "We started the program as a way to train veterinarians in the application of forensic science and medicine to the veterinary medical sciences. It is a way to bolster their knowledge and credibility."

The program, run in conjunction with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, consists of five three-credit courses. It is available online and covers topics such as processing crime scenes, animal cruelty and legal principles of forensic evidence. Students come from a wide range of backgrounds, including law enforcement, forensic sciences, organizations of animal rescues and veterinary medicines.

"Veterinary forensic science is more than cases involving animal abuse and neglect, animal fighting, hoarding and puppy mills," said program graduate Ann Cavender. "It involves all aspects of the intersection of veterinary medicine and the legal community."

The University, which is the fourth-largest academic institution in the United States, does not offer job placement for graduates, though.

"All of our students are previously employed in the field and are seeking an education which will allow them to do their jobs better," said Byrd.

But the kind of jobs that you could get with this type of education sound cool. Patricia Norris is the Sheriff's Veterinarian for the Dona Ana County Sheriff's Office in Las Cruces, New Mexico. She said, "I believe that as pioneers in the field of veterinary forensic science, we are obligated to hold our field to rigorous standards of scientific methodology and integrity. Having an advanced education certificate and degree programs is an essential piece of meeting that challenge."

More information on the program can be found at forensic science.ufl.edu/veterinary.

Follow Dennis Bovell on Twitter @dbovell.

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