Evaluator considerations

Animal abuse can carry with it significant levels of social stigma and is shame based and for many seasoned forensic evaluators there is a strong reaction to dealing with animal abuse cases.

The evaluator’s  presentation

  • Establishing an honest and open relationship with the client will assist in treatment
  • Every client should be treated with respect and generally approached non-confrontationally no matter how horrible the abuse behavior
  • Try to avoid expressing shock or disgust during the interview

Clarification of the evaluation purpose and process

  • When beginning the interview you should clearly state the reason why you are conducting this interview
  • Establishing an honest and open relationship with the client will assist in the treatment process ( should treatment occur post evaluation)
  • The client should be informed if their disclosure poses the risk of additional criminal charges or consequences
  • If the client is expressing some form of discomfort and anxiety you should discuss it directly
  • Confirm that the client understands all questions that are being asked of them

In-depth structured clinical interviews are the ideal

  • Ideally these interviews should be performed as predisposition assessments so that information can be made available to the court and treatment interventionists
  • Many clients will not accurately self-disclose the scope of their animal abuse behaviors (they will often under report and minimize the scope of the frequency, intentionally and harm done)
  • A careful review of collateral; information and following up with others who know the client is critical
  • Every effort should be made to find corroborating sources of information to compare against the clients self report to improve the accuracy of the report
  • When you ask questions, attempt to elicit details around the what, where, who, when and how
  • Motivation for the behaviors should be asked directly without expressing opinion about the client’s beliefs and attitude
  • Monitoring and documenting  non-verbal responses to interview questions is an important element of animal cruelty evaluations
Maintaining control of the interview process
  • Prior to sentencing, individuals who are facing potential legal consequences are likely to withhold information relevant to accurate risk and treatment planning
  • If a client states that he wants to tell you something “off the record”, you should inform them that you are unwilling to insure that this information will remain strictly confidential
  • Do not agree to keep information secret unless this assessment is being done within the context of a purely confidential therapeutic relationship
  • If a client is refusing to answer question or is unwilling to proceed with the evaluation, you should stop the interview and document the client’s reason for terminating the interview (include this in your report to the court)

Cross-reporting considerations

  • Evaluators may have  ethical considerations related to carrying information related to abuse of animals
  • There may be a strong possibility that information revealed to evaluators will include “Link” information related to a risk/abuse behavior towards humans
  • Evalutors may have a duty to ward or duty to report


  • Do not ignore the importance of self-care and the need to discuss the impact these cases have on you