The FBI plans to reclassify cruelty to animals, which is currently categorized as an “other crime.” In January 2016, animal abuse will be listed as a Group A felony, a category that includes homicide, burglary, arson and drug trafficking.
Group A felonies are described as “crimes against society,” and the reclassification means that police will be required to report cases of animal cruelty. The FBI plans to track four types: sexual abuse of an animal, neglect, intentional abuse or torture, and organized abuse. That last category probably describes items like dog fighting rings.
The new classification would help law enforcement agents track trends and devise policies. It would also make it easier for lawyers to get offenders convicted.
Most importantly, better statistics of animal cruelty would help the FBI better understand other violent crimes like homicide and domestic abuse. Studies have long shown a definite link animal cruelty and violent behavior towards people. A man who beats his dog might not hesitate to beat his wife or child. Someone who sets a cat on fire might well be willing to kill a human being.
Some groups like the National Sheriff’s Association believe that keeping track of animal abuse cases may actually help prevent other crimes. Somebody who is already in jail for beating a dog to death probably won’t be able to do the same thing to a person.
Animal rights groups are delighted by the FBI’s decision. John Goodwin of the Humane Society explains that while some animal rights groups do take it upon themselves to keep track of animal cruelty cases, the FBI is the only organization that can do so on a large scale.