In a move that will have animal lovers everywhere smiling, the FBI have added animal cruelty to its list of ‘Class A’ felonies making it as serious crime as murder.
Vice News report that the decision has been seen as a big win for animal rights activists, as previously all animal abuse cases were considered mostly minor crimes and listed as ‘other offences’ in the agency’s reporting system.
There are four categories of animal cruelty- neglect, intentional abuse and torture, organised abuse like cock and dog fighting and the sexual abuse of animals. The agency will now monitor them all as it does other serious crimes.
Natasha Dolezal, director of the animal law programme in the Centre for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark College, told the Associated Press:
Regardless of whether people care about how animals are treated, people – like legislators and judges – care about humans, and they can’t deny the data… Animal abuse is already a felony in 13 states and in Washington, DC., but it had been previously classified with other miscellaneous crimes, making it impossible to get a handle on the patterns of animal-abuse crimes.
The scheme began on January 1st and data is being entered into the National Incident-Based Reporting System, or NIBRS, the public database the FBI uses to keep a record of national crimes.
The Huffington Post claim that the FBI’s decision isn’t just about helping animals, and it’s hoped that by keeping track of those who abuse animals the FBI can identify people who might commit other violent crimes.
Vice News explained that previous psychological studies have shown that nearly 70 per cent of violent criminals begin by abusing animals, and keeping statistics on such cases can help law enforcement track down high-risk demographics and areas.
FBI studies have shown that serial killers like the infamous Jeffrey Dahmer impaled the heads of dogs, frogs and cats on sticks, while other killers, like the Boston Strangler, trapped cats and dogs in wooden crates and killed them by shooting arrows through the box.
John Thompson, the executive director of the National Sheriff’s Association said:
This data will bring awareness to the problem and show the real connection between animal abusers and interpersonal crimes to underscore the link between animal abuse and other violent crimes.
— People Magazine (@people) January 6, 2016
Scott Heiser, a lawyer with the Animal Defense League, told the Washington Post that the move to start tracking cases of animal abuse is a ‘huge policy shift and significant step forward’.
The FBI announced the change in 2014 but only began collecting data as of this month, so the information will be publicly available in the coming year.