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Expert Witness in Animal Legal Cases

Dr. Rebecca Ledger is an expert in animal behaviour and welfare, who is regularly retained by humane societies, pet owners, governments and lawyers in legal cases involving animals. Dr. Ledger:

  • Has been retained in over 200 legal cases involving cats, dogs, horses, farm animals, laboratory animals, and wildlife, in Canada and internationally.

  • Has been qualified as an Expert Witness in Human Rights Tribunals, the Provincial and Supreme Courts, and the Queen's Bench.

  • Provides expert opinions in legal cases involving animal cruelty, dog aggression, animal welfare and animal behaviour.

  • Pioneered the use of behavioural evidence in court cases, using the Five Domains Model to assess animal suffering.

  • Is regularly retained by the Defence and/or the Prosecution.

  • Is impartial and unbiased and subsequently frequently retained as a single joint expert.

Who needs an Expert Witness in
Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare?

Examples of situations when Dr Ledger may be required to provide an Expert Opinion are:

  • Animal Control

    • Seeking to have a dog behaviourally assessed following a report of aggressive behaviour

    • Risk assessments for dogs with a history of displaying aggressive behaviour

    • Developing and/or reviewing management plans for dogs with a bite history

  • Legal Counsel

    • Dealing with ‘dangerous dog’ cases (Prosecutors and Defence counsel)

    • Dealing with cases involving animal cruelty (any species)

  • Owners / guardians
    • Of dogs who are appealing ‘dangerous', 'vicious' or 'aggressive dog’ designations
    • ​Who are appealing the seizure of their animals (any species)

  • Animal protection agencies and Police

    • Seeking to obtain warrants, seize animals or recommend charges against individuals for animal cruelty

  • Individuals

    • Who have been accused of cruelty to animals

    • Individuals involved in pet custody disputes

  • Individuals or organizations

    • Involved in private prosecutions for animal cruelty

    • Involved in Human Rights complaints involving animals

  • Municipalities, policymakers and advocacy groups

    • Looking to involve experts in the development of guidelines, Codes and legislation regarding animals (including Breed Specific Legislation, Animal Control bylaws)

  • Individuals, insurance companies and legal counsel

    • ​Involved in civil litigation

Who Can Act as an Expert Witness in
Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare?

When qualifying someone to act as an Expert Witness, the Court may seek the following information:

  • Does the Expert Witness have professional qualifications?

  • Is the Expert Witness a member of any professional associations related to the proposed evidence?

  • Has the Expert Witness:

    • Given expert evidence before?

    • Any qualifications, such as a Master's Degree or a PhD?

    • Attended additional courses and seminars on the subject?

    • Taught about the subject?

    • Published about the subject in peer-reviewed journals?

    • Kept up with changes in the field?

  • How long has the Expert Witness:

    • Been involved with the subject at issue?

    • Worked in the field at issue?

Dr Ledger's academic qualifications, work experience, publication record, professional memberships and teaching mean that she meets all of these criteria.

Legal Work Highlights

Dr. Rebecca Ledger has:

  • Assisted Courts in Canada to establish an extensive body of science-based case law regarding 'dangerous dogs' and animal cruelty.

  • Pioneered the use of the Five Domains Model in animal cruelty cases, whereby using behavioural evidence, the determination of ‘suffering’ under the Criminal Code has now been expanded to include various forms of emotional distress, often in the absence of any physical evidence.

  • Dr Ledger's methods have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, including:
    Published: Ledger RA, Mellor DJ. Forensic use of the Five Domains Model for assessing suffering in cases of animal cruelty. Animals. 2018;8(7):E101. Download it here.

  • Testified regarding how severely an animal has suffered, using science-based and peer-reviewed frameworks. This information can help Courts to determine sentencing outcomes.

  • Assisted Courts in Canada to decide on issues of liability in civil cases involving animals.

  • Provided evidence to the Canadian government on matters that have shaped Municipal, Provincial and Federal animal welfare legislation.

  • Provided training extensively in the legal application of animal behaviour and welfare science to lawyers, Animal Control Officers, the Police and Animal Protection Officers, and other professionals.

Contact Animal Behaviour & Welfare Consulting

If you would like to discuss the possibility of retaining Dr Ledger for an opinion in your legal matter, please get in touch by completing the form below. We will then set up an initial 1 hour online meeting (rates apply) to explore whether Dr Ledger is the expert that you need.


Note: Dr Rebecca Ledger is not a lawyer and cannot provide legal advice. If you are a defendant, respondent or appellant, it is recommended that you consider retaining legal representation prior to speaking with Dr Ledger.

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