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Methods in herpetological forensic work — clinical techniques

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Biologists, law enforcement officials and veterinarians are routinely called upon to investigate reptile cases for abuse, neglect, illegal importation, and abandonment. While pursuing these situations, it is important that evidence is collected in an organized and systematic way to ensure successful prosecution or to mount a defense. There are different types of evidence that can be amassed to diagnose a disease/condition in a reptile case. Antemortem clinical investigations can be conducted for those cases where the animals are alive, while postmortem examinations should be pursued for animals that have expired. The purpose of this article is to review the common antemortem clinical techniques that can be used for forensic cases. There are a number of clinical diagnostics available for the forensic case, including the physical examination, clinical pathology, parasite diagnostics, infectious disease diagnostics, clinical toxicology, and diagnostic imaging. In addition to the clinical techniques, it is important to review and document the methods used to house and care for the animals. For this, a thorough review of the husbandry practices provided for the animal is needed.

Affiliations: 1: Zoological Medicine Service, Department of Veterinary Clinical Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61802, USA;, Email:; 2: Zoological Medicine Service, Department of Small Animal Medicine & Surgery, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA


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