The expertise and proficiency of local animal-cruelty investigations have been greatly enhanced as a result of an innovative partnership between Volusia County Animal Services and the University of Florida’s Veterinary Forensic Sciences Laboratory.
And now that partnership between the county and UF has garnered statewide recognition as the recipient of the Florida Animal Control Association’s (FACA) 2021 Outstanding Cooperative Team Achievement Award.
While extremely proud of the award, Animal Services Director Adam Leath said more important is that the partnership is helping to ensure that cases in Volusia County involving animal cruelty, welfare, or suspected abuse are handled with the highest level of care and professionalism.
In addition to serving on the board of directors for the National Animal Care & Control Association, Leath also is a courtesy assistant professor for UF’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
“The working relationship that we’ve been able to develop with the Veterinary Forensic Sciences Laboratory really has resulted in enhanced animal services in Volusia County,” said Leath. “We’re improving the lives of pets and people by combining the strengths and resources of both organizations. It’s a true partnership in every sense of the word, and we’re very proud that the Florida Animal Control Association has recognized the shared efforts and impacts of our teamwork.”
An international leader in veterinary sciences, UF and its Veterinary Forensic Sciences Laboratory are committed to assisting and supporting animal-cruelty investigations. And it is putting its expertise to work by helping to train Volusia County’s animal control officers in specialized skills, like crime scene investigation, excavation of clandestine graves, and how to identify, document and perform forensic examination of animal-abuse victims.
At the request of Volusia’s Animal Services, the lab has also provided veterinary autopsy services in several cases — providing the forensic evidence that helped facilitate the filing of criminal charges, successful prosecutions and, most importantly, the rescue of animals from deplorable living conditions.
It’s this high standard of excellence in animal welfare, care and control that earned statewide recognition for the cooperative program, according to an award letter earlier this year from FACA President Darcy Andrade to Volusia County Animal Services and UF.
“On behalf of the FACA Board and FACA member agencies, thank you for your dedication and exceptional service in advancing animal welfare,” Andrade said in the letter.
A UF veterinary professor said the county’s successful partnership could lead to more around the state.
“The 2020 partnership between the University of Florida’s Veterinary Forensics Sciences Laboratory and the Volusia County Animal Services was extremely successful and can serve as a framework for additional partnerships for other agencies,” said Dr. Adam Stern, an associate professor of forensic pathology at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine.