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Trends in Domestic Animal Medico-Legal Pathology Cases Submitted to a Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory 1998–2010


  • Beverly J. McEwen D.V.M., M.Sc., Ph.D.

    1. Animal Health Laboratory, Laboratory Services Division, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1H 6R8, Canada.
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  • Presented as a poster at the International Veterinary Forensic Sciences Association Meeting, May 2–4, 2011, Orlando, FL.

Additional information and reprint requests:
Beverly J. McEwen, D.V.M., M.Sc., Ph.D.
Animal Health Laboratory
Laboratory Services Division
University of Guelph
Box 3612
Guelph, Ontario N1H 6R8


Abstract:  Pathologists at veterinary diagnostic laboratories receive medico-legal cases from a variety of animal species for postmortem examination. A search of computerized records of the Animal Health Laboratory, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada from 1998 to 2010 identified 1706 medicolegal cases. These were categorized according to the history as criminal investigations, anesthetic-related deaths, insurance, litigation, malpractice cases, and regulatory cases. Statistically significant linear trends in the proportion of medicolegal cases for all animals and criminal cases for companion animals were identified over the 12 year period. Companion animals had significantly greater odds of being a medicolegal case in all categories except for insurance and regulatory cases, compared to noncompanion animals. Based on pathology reports for the 271 criminal cases, 43.1% were consistent with neglect, 29.2% were compatible with non-accidental injury, 4.80% were poisonings, 10.7% were deemed to be due to natural disease, and 11.43% were inconclusive.