The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced this week that animal abuse will be prosecuted as a “crime against society.” The change in classification means animal abusers fall into a ‘Group A’ felony with arsonists and murderers. This change was announced by John Thompson at the National Sheriffs’ Association. FBI Investigation Director James Comey signed off on including animal cruelty offenses in the Uniform Crime Report. Local agencies will also track them to report to the FBI.
No longer will extremely violent crimes against animals be included in the “other offense” category simply because the victims were animals. Just as the FBI tracks hate crimes and other important categories, they will now have critical data on animal cruelty. The HSUS has been pushing for this change in policy for years, along with our affiliates, the Humane Society Legislative Fund and Doris Day Animal League.
According to the FBI, the official definition of animal cruelty will be:
“Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly taking an action that mistreats or kills any animal without just cause, such as torturing, tormenting, mutilation, maiming, poisoning, or abandonment. Included are instances of duty to provide care, e.g., shelter, food, water, care if sick or injured; transporting or confining an animal in a manner likely to cause injury or death; causing an animal to fight with another; inflicting excessive or repeated unnecessary pain or suffering, e.g., uses objects to beat or injure an animal. This definition does not include proper maintenance of animals for show or sport; use of animals for food, lawful hunting, fishing or trapping.”
The FBI will begin collecting information about animal abuse in 2016. Animal cruelty is currently labeled as “other”, which has made it difficult to find, count and track incidents and perpetrators. Now that animal cruelty, including animal neglect, is included in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, there is a real incentive for law enforcement agencies to pay closer attention to such incidents. With accurate data, law enforcement agencies will also be better able to allocate officers and financial resources to handle these cases, track trends and deploy accordingly. The FBI’s new categorization will greatly improve the way such crimes are tracked nationwide and likely will help animal cruelty laws across the United States.
Many studies reveal that children who torture or kill animals are likely to show violence towards people when they grow up. Re-classifying animal abuse will aid law enforcement and the FBI in quantifying and reporting incidents of animal abuse.