Veterinary Forensic Pathology of Animal Sexual Abuse

Vet Pathol. 2016 Sep;53(5):1057-66. doi: 10.1177/0300985816643574. Epub 2016 May 11.


Animal sexual abuse (ASA) involves harm inflicted on animals for the purposes of human sexual gratification and includes such terms as bestiality, zoophilia, zoosadism, animal sexual assault, and others. The prevalence of ASA is not known, although it may be more common than is currently perceived. Veterinarians have the skills required to identify and document cases of ASA. This article reviews the terminology, legal definitions and forms of ASA, and its social and psychological context. An investigative approach is outlined, including an alternate light source examination; collection of swabs for DNA analysis; sampling vaginal washes, rectal washes, and toenails for trace evidence and biologic analyses; radiographic studies; and a complete forensic necropsy, including histopathology. Gross lesions identified in ASA victims include injuries to the anus, rectum, penis, scrotum, nipples, and vagina; the presence of foreign bodies; and abrasions, bruising, and other evidence of nonaccidental injury. Specialized procedures, including examination using alternate light sources and screening tests to identify human seminal fluid within samples from ASA victims, are of potential value but have not been validated for use in animals.

Keywords: animal sexual abuse; bestiality; interspecies sex; reproductive; semen; veterinary; veterinary forensic pathology.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Welfare* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Animals
  • Autopsy / veterinary
  • Female
  • Forensic Pathology* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Forensic Pathology* / methods
  • Genitalia / injuries
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Paraphilic Disorders*
  • Pathology, Veterinary* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Pathology, Veterinary* / methods
  • Semen Analysis / veterinary