In eight hours, Dr. Melinda Merck turned a yearlong search for a sociopath into a training lesson for B.C. animal cruelty investigators.
Through 30 necropsies, the international leading expert on animal forensic sciences was able to determine there was no foul play in a case that Mounties and SPCA investigators have been chasing since the first wave of mutilated cats turned up in the summer of 2011.
“We don’t want to throw anybody under the bus – this isn’t taught in vet school,” Merck cautioned Friday.
A warning was issued in September 2011 after veterinarians determined a tool must have been used to slice a number of Maple Ridge cats in half. So when the second wave of mutilated Maple Ridge cats started to appear in May of this year, the SPCA called in the leading expert. Merck’s testimony was integral in the 2007 dogfighting case against NFL star Michael Vick. Her examination of 10 discarded fight dogs is believed to have led to the superstar’s stint in prison.
So when Merck arrived in Vancouver on Tuesday, her first availability, it took only one day of examination to determine the cats were killed by a predator, likely a coyote. Merck taught the 10 investigators on hand the telltale signs – triangular defects in bones from the animals’ teeth and foreign fur caught in the frayed nails of cats from their final struggle.
The findings were made with the naked eye, but she didn’t blame the BC SPCA for exercising extreme caution in the first wave of killings.
“[The SPCA] did everything right, they sent it to the experts and the experts reported, this is what we’ve got. Forensics isn’t taught in vet school… they’re only learning it if they’ve got textbooks which are brand new.”
Jeff Green is a reporter for The Province.