The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has started tracking those who abuse animals for the first time in history. Because individuals who abuse animals are more likely to harm people, and the FBI believes that tracking the information could help prevent crimes and assist in solving open cases. Using its National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), each case of animal abuse will be recorded by placing it into one of four subgroups: animal neglect, intentional torture and abuse, organized abuse or animal sexual abuse.
Cockfighting and dogfighting are categorized under the “organized abuse” category. After a period of time, information such as the age, criminal history and the location of those convicted of animal abuse will be made known using the data. The new policy went into place on Jan. 1 of this year. Along with tracking the cases, the FBI has changed the classification of animal abuse to a Group A felony.
Other group A felonies include murder, assault and arson. Though animal cruelty is now being placed in the same class as these other crimes, animal abuse is only considered a felony in 13 states. Because of this, animal abusers still currently receive lesser consequences than other crimes in the same classification The idea for the new policy began in 2014 when animal welfare activist Mary Lou Randour convinced the FBI of the seriousness of animal cruelty. Before the new classification, animal cruelty was categorized under the “other” category along with lesser crimes.
FBI studies have shown that serial killers and repeat violent criminals often abuse animals in their early years. A study done by the Chicago Police Department found that 65 percent of those who had abused animals were later arrested for battery against a human. The new classification and tracking system are helping the FBI to get help for those who abuse animals, keeping them from turning to more violent crimes in the future. While the FBI is still leaving most cases to be prosecuted by the individual states, some will be prosecuted by the federal system.
Advocates for the change hope that tracking the information will give incentive to local law enforcement agencies to allocate more funding and officers to animal abuse cases. All of the tracking information that is collected in 2016 will be available in 2017 for review. Law enforcement experts believe that it will take time for the new changes to be implemented and several years for the data to become useful to the police. Once local and federal authorities become involved in tracking the data, however, it is predicted to become very important in the use of solving and preventing crime.