For three decades, human DNA has been used in court; now, abused cats and dogs are benefiting from their own genetic evidence. Thus far, only a few cases have been won with help from DNA, but its use is “becoming more and more common,” an expert tells the New York Times. In addition to helping win a few convictions—two of which were returned this month—the genetic material has prompted many guilty pleas.
Scruffy the cat was put down after being brutally burned by a pair of teens; DNA from burnt tissue helped identify the animal and link them to the crime. “When the vet comes in and testifies about the extent of the injuries, the gruesome nature of the way the flame was applied, the extraordinary way the cat suffered—this is the cat,” says a deputy DA. In most cases, defendants “end up pleading,” said a lab director, “because their lawyers know what would happen if they brought that kind of cruelty in front of a jury.”