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Michael

Michael PECIC

Year of Award: 2009 Award State: Queensland Emergency Services > Police
Science > Forensic
To investigate practices surrounding forensic examination of crime scenes for offences against animals - USA
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Secrets lie in the bones of dead animals and in the tissue and shape of the injuries of wounded animals. Animal cruelty is linked with sociopathic behaviour. Abusing animals reflects a severe lack of moral responsibility and social conscience. In Michael Pecic’s opinion the disturbing and malicious practice of harming animals infects and poisons our social fabric. Research has shown that people who are cruel to animals are more likely to behave similarly to humans.

Michael Pecic was once a Senior Detective working in the child abuse area of the Queensland Police Force. He had always loved animals and in a slight career change became the Chief Inspector for the RSPCA. He soon found that they were relying almost solely on the old style policing methods of interviewing suspects, informants and witnesses. He wanted to discover what was happening in the field internationally and applied for a Churchill Fellowship in 2009 to do this.

Most of Michael Pecic’s plans to study forensic investigation in the field of using forensic science to investigate animal cruelty were turned upside down the day he arrived in the United States on his Fellowship in April 2009. The environmental disaster of the vast BP oil spill in the south east of the country meant that no animal welfare workers or veterinarians could see him because they were responding to the resulting crisis.

Later he was forced to change his plans again when flash floods devastated Nashville and it was declared a state of emergency. Michael reorganised his schedule and found some experts from other parts of the country who could meet him.

He saw that in the United States, forensic crime scene investigations are no longer limited to human victims. The same techniques brought to public awareness by television series like CSI and Silent Witness are now used in the US to bring those who have harmed and tortured animals to justice.

Forensic investigation of animal victims has led to increased sentences and penalties of the abusers and also to a greater understanding of the pain and suffering of animals during these appalling incidents.

After his Fellowship Michael Pecic had a vision of establishing a forensic unit capable of responding to animal cruelty not just in his native Queensland but all over Australia. He believes that there needed to be increased recognition of the suffering of animals by our court system, and that this could be achieved by informed decision-making processes.

Two factors enhance the capacity of American investigators to provide courts with good forensic evidence of animal cruelty: firstly, in the United States offences against animals are crimes, which often carry mandatory custodial sentences, whereas in Australia most of these offences seldom carry more than a fine.

Secondly, the coordinated resources of America compared with Australia really struck Michael. Numerous American universities, government bodies and private practices are eager to provide expert examination and evidence whenever this is needed. In Australia there are long waiting times because animal cruelty investigations are not seen as very important.

The Fellowship enabled Michael to compile a vast library of texts, electronic copies of procedures and policies and the sort of knowledge that can only be gained from being involved in the process as an insider so that he can confidently develop a crime scene unit in Australia for the benefit of animal welfare.

Excerpt from “Inspiring Australians” written by Penny Hanley (2015)

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