A Lapeer County Prosecutor has requested that he be allowed to admit evidence relating to an animal’s genetics into court without presenting an expert to testify about this evidence at trial.
On July 7, a black husky and another dog owned by Geuorgui Shopov were running loose in Attica Township, Michigan. The two dogs killed four roosters, four fully-grown guineafowl, and two rabbits belonging to an Attica resident. The reported damages were $260.
On July 11, the Lapeer County Animal Control Dept. took custody of the black husky. Shopov was charged with violation of the Wolf-Dog Cross Act. In relevant part, the act prohibits owning, possessing, breeding, or offering a wolf or wolf-dog hybrid for sale.
CHAPTER 287. ANIMAL INDUSTRY. WOLF-DOG CROSS ACT.
Sec. 4. (1) A person shall not possess 1 or more wolf-dog crosses unless all of the following apply:
(a) The person owns the wolf-dog crosses or has temporarily been given possession of the wolf-dog crosses by the owner.
(b) The owner was in possession of those individual wolf-dog crosses on the effective date of this act.
(c) The owner applies for a permit for those wolf-dog crosses within 4 months after the effective date of this act, and obtains a permit for those wolf-dog crosses. The permit applies only to those individual wolf-dog crosses. The permit is not transferable to another person except through testate or intestate succession. The permit is valid in any local unit in which the possession of the wolf-dog cross is not prohibited by ordinance.
Violation of the Wolf-Dog Cross Act is a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to 93 days in prison, 500 hours of community service, the loss of the privilege to own any animal, and a $250-1000 fine.
The Lapeer County Animal Control sent a genetic sample from the animal to the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of California-Davis for forensic analysis. The lab determined that the animal is a wolf-dog hybrid. Introduction of this evidence normally requires an expert witness to substantiate it.
Assistant Prosecutor Tom Sparrow filed a motion with the court requesting that the court allow the introduction of this evidence without the need of an expert witness. The cost to secure the testimony of the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory Director, Dr. Christina Lindquist, as an expert witness at trial would be $2,000 per day of testimony, plus $50 per hour of travel, plus the costs of travel, meals, and lodging. However, Sparrow stressed that the Board should consider spending the money on the expert if the court does not allow the introduction of the testimony without an expert. The motion with the court is still pending,
Lapeer County Board of Commissioners would like to achieve the conviction without the use of an expert witness. County Commissioner Ian Kempf stated, “I think it’s clear we don’t want a wolf-dog hybrid in our community, but if we can achieve that with the information in front of us without spending taxpayer money (we should).”
A fair trial depends on the ability to cross-examine witnesses. A lab report cannot be cross-examined. If the county thinks the offense is worth prosecuting, it will probably be required to spend the money to give the defendant a fair trial.