Case Studies

When Pets Become Crime Solvers: Unveiling the Extraordinary Role of Animals in Investigations

July 18, 2023 by Anastasiia Ponomarova in Case Studies  Special Report  
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Snowball helped solve a murder.

Animals Solving Crime

Crime scenes can be perplexing puzzles that often require the keenest of investigators to unravel. While we typically rely on human intelligence and advanced forensic technologies to crack cases, there have been extraordinary instances where our beloved pets have played an unexpected role in solving crimes. From cats to dogs and even birds, these furry and feathered heroes have provided invaluable assistance to law enforcement agencies worldwide. In this article, we explore some remarkable cases where pets have become unexpected crime solvers.

The Feathered Detective: Bird’s DNA Points to a Murderer

In a chilling Christmas Eve incident in 2001, Kevin Butler, the owner of a pool company, fell victim to a brutal attack in his own home. Unbeknownst to the assailants, Butler’s loyal white-crested cockatoo, Bird, fearlessly defended his owner. While Bird tragically lost his life in the struggle, his actions were not in vain. Investigators discovered DNA from the attackers on Bird’s beak and claws, leading to the identification of Daniel Torres, a former employee at Butler’s pool company. Torres had inadvertently left his DNA on a light switch after wiping blood from his head, firmly placing him at the scene of the crime. As a result of Bird’s heroic intervention, Torres was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Feline Guardian Angels: Cats Unravel Mysteries

Cats, known for their independence and mysterious nature, have also left their mark in the realm of crime solving. One intriguing case took place in 1994 when Shirley Duguay, a mother of five from Canada, vanished without a trace. Suspicion fell upon her common-law husband, Douglas Beamish, who had a history of violence. However, without solid evidence, no arrest could be made. It was only when investigators discovered white cat hairs on a jacket found near Duguay’s home that a breakthrough occurred. Roger Savoie, an astute investigator, recalled that Beamish had a white cat named Snowball. DNA testing confirmed that the cat hairs matched Snowball’s, establishing a link between Beamish and the crime scene. With this crucial evidence, Savoie successfully built a case against Beamish, who was subsequently convicted of second-degree murder.

Canine Witnesses: The Power of Dog Hair

Dogs have long been recognized for their loyalty and unwavering dedication to their human companions. In 2001, the disappearance of 7-year-old Danielle Van Dam captivated the nation. Despite extensive investigations, authorities struggled to identify any suspects. However, a breakthrough came when they turned their attention to a neighbor named David Westerfield. Westerfield’s suspicious behavior raised eyebrows, and a search of his home revealed dog hairs matching the Van Dam family dog. These hairs were found on Danielle’s pajamas, suggesting that she had been in contact with Westerfield. The presence of the dog hairs became pivotal evidence, leading to Westerfield’s arrest and conviction for abduction and murder.

Avian Testimony: The Parrot with a Voice

One of the most unique instances of animal involvement in crime solving occurred when a parrot named Bud became an unexpected witness. After the murder of Martin Duram, Bud began reciting snippets of an argument he had overheard between two individuals. The parrot’s phrases, including “Get out” and “Where will I go,” were soon followed by the chilling repetition of Duram’s final words, “Don’t f—ing shoot.” This unexpected testimony helped investigators unravel the pieces of the puzzle. Eventually, Duram’s wife, Glenna Duram, was convicted of first-degree murder based on the parrot’s eerie recollection, solidifying the remarkable role pets can play in criminal investigations.

The Power of Pets: Unlocking the Potential of Animal Involvement in Crime Solving

The cases above represent just a fraction of the astonishing instances where pets have provided invaluable assistance in crime solving. Yet, we must acknowledge that these remarkable occurrences are not yet fully understood or utilized to their full potential in investigations. A recent study conducted at Flinders University in Australia and the Victoria Police Forensic Services Department sought to shed light on the transfer and prevalence of human DNA on companion animals, such as cats and dogs, and their potential role in criminal investigations. The study revealed that pets can be highly relevant in assessing the presence of individuals at crime scenes, providing valuable insights into the activities of household inhabitants or recent visitors. Further research is required to elucidate the means and extent of DNA transfer between humans and pets, unlocking the full potential of our animal companions in aiding the pursuit of justice.


When it comes to solving crimes, our pets have proven time and again that they are more than just adorable companions. From birds, cats, and dogs to even parrots, these extraordinary animals have played an unexpected role in helping to crack cases that may have otherwise gone unsolved. Their unwavering loyalty, keen senses, and surprising ability to preserve crucial evidence have contributed to the delivery of justice and closure for countless victims and their families. As we continue to explore the untapped potential of our furry and feathered friends, it is clear that their role in crime solving extends far beyond what we could have ever imagined. So, the next time you look into the eyes of your beloved pet, remember that they may just be the unsung heroes of the crime-fighting world.

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