Five Students Receive Scholarships through ASPCA Grant

Published: February 1st, 2013

Category: News


Congratulations to our Spring 2013 scholarship recipients!

Thanks to a generous grant from the ASPCA, these five outstanding students will have the opportunity to gain the forensic expertise necessary to help solve cases involving animal cruelty and to better ensure justice for animals and humans through the legal court system.

Meet the Recipients

Gillette_PhotoDr. Leslie Gillette

Dr. Leslie Gillette graduated from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in 1998 and worked in small animal private practice. After volunteering at her local animal shelter, she found the experience so rewarding that in 2011 she began working as the staff veterinarian for Animal Care and Protective Services (ACPS) in Jacksonville. I this capacity she has worked with local law enforcement during raids on suspected animal fighting rings and with the ASPCA on a large-scale cat hoarding case. She also served as an expert witness in three criminal trials and several civil court cases.

Dr. Gillette’s interest in veterinary forensic sciences was sparked by a lecture by Phil Arkow on “The Link” between domestic violence and animal abuse. She and ACPS are now cross training with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Children and Families, and local advocacy groups for victims. “I really believe that my career has moved in this direction for a reason,” said Dr. Gillette. “The ability to work with animals that come into the shelter and be the voice for those who have been abused, misused, or just thrown away is more rewarding than I could have ever imagined.”

Masterson_PhotoDr. Poppy Masterson

Dr. Poppy Masterson graduated from the University College Dublin in Ireland and is pursuing a career in veterinary medicine, with special emphasis on animal welfare problems. She currently works for a Dublin based animal charity and helps rescue and re-home animals in need.

Dr. Masterson believes veterinary forensic sciences are a vital tool in addressing animal abuse. In addition to completing the crime scene investigation and forensic entomology modules, she completed a week-long “Animal Crime Scene Crime Processing” workshop in Gainesville, FL. “Studying for the Certificate has been a fantastic process so far,” said Dr. Masterson. “I am utterly convinced of the importance of this emerging field and I know that the wisdom and experience gained from this course will serve to enhance the lives of many animals through my efforts.”

Simone_PhotoJustin Simone

Justin Simone is currently attending veterinary school at St. Matthews University in the Grand Cayman Islands, after receiving his undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut. His career goal is to use his position as a veterinarian to educate clients about adoption. Simone became interested in animal welfare after adopting a rescue dog named Mellie. “My dog Mellie has shown me that, even with everything she has been through, she is still capable of unconditional love and loyalty,” said Simone. “This has led to my interest in veterinary forensic sciences.”

Simone believes that the knowledge he will obtain from the University of Florida’s Veterinary Forensic Sciences Graduate Certificate will help his assess when there is a dog that is being abused. He also intends to teach his clients on what to look for to spot potential abuse.

Tong_PhotoDr. Lydia Tong

Dr. Lydia Tong is a veterinarian currently training to be a specialist in veterinary pathology at the University of Sydney in Australia. She graduated from Cambridge University in 2009. Her professional experience includes working at a small animal practice in the UK, helping primates in South Africa, and supporting a military disaster relief and humanitarian aid mission in the South Pacific. Dr. Tong’s primary research interest is in differentiating accidental from non-accidental injury. She believes that veterinary medicine requires its own evidence-based literature to better determine the pathology that occurs in animal abuse.

“The passion that has always driven me to be a vet has been the desire to alleviate suffering, particularly in animals whose pain is inflicted by humans, either by commission or omission,” said Dr. Tong. “I hope to use my education in this area to strengthen my capabilities as a forensic pathologist as well as sharing what I learn with the veterinary students whom I teach. I want to see them graduate as veterinarians who are more aware of non-accidental injury in animals and the link between domestic and animal violence.”

Woolf_PhotoDr. Jennifer Woolf

Dr. Jennifer Woolf graduated from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in 1995. She is now working for Oakland Animal Services in northern California. When she first started, she mostly performed sterilization surgeries and provided medical care to shelter animals. Dr. Woolf recalls participating in a cruelty case where 33 dogs were removed a garage. “While I had the skills and experience to do the physical exams,” said Dr. Woolf, “I knew nothing about how to handle the criminal aspects of the case.” That experience prompted her to learn more about the field of veterinary forensic sciences through conference, textbooks, and the Veterinary Forensic Sciences Graduate Certificate Program.

Dr. Woolf hopes that that knowledge she gains will allow her to provide better medical care for potential victims of cruelty. Her goal is to learn how to recognize signs of abuse or neglect and to collect strong documentation that can be used in court. Dr. Woolf also hopes to disseminate this knowledge to colleagues in her area so they can all serve their patients better.