The FBI will soon begin tracking animal cruelty cases in the same manner other as crimes are investigated. The decision to begin a tracking policy change was approved on September 9. Humane Society of the United States CEO Wayne Pacelle posted in a September 16 blog that his long-time friend John Thompson with the National Sheriffs’ Association informed him that FBI Director James Comer has signed off on the change in the Uniform Crime Report.
Since local agencies will report cases of animal cruelty to the FBI, more accurate statistics can be documented. In turn, this will help focus enforcement resources and violence prevention programs where they’re most needed. In the past, many local police and sheriff’s departments, as well as humane society and animal control employees attempted to keep track of when, where and what kind of abuse was taking place.
Since animal cruelty, including neglect, will be documented in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, individual agencies will be able to tell if there’s a pattern in their area that needs their attention. This, in turn, will hopefully put more officers in the area where the most cases of abuse have been reported. In the past, animal abuse cases were filed under “other,” simply because the victims were animals.
The abuse will be placed into one of four categories
- Simple/gross neglect
- Intentional abuse and torture
- Organized abuse (dog fighting or cock fighting)
- Animal sexual abuse
The Uniform Crime Report was created in 1929 by the International Association of Chiefs of Police to gather national crime statistics in one place. In 1930, the FBI began collecting, publishing, and archiving those statistics. The UCR is the first place police, students of criminal justice, news media and the public turn to find information on crime in the United States.
HSUS has been pushing for the policy change but the change has been years in the making. Not only the HSUS, but the number of cases of animal cruelty reported on using social media has made the public more aware of violence towards animals. Whether the number of cases of animal cruelty has actually risen, or whether more are just reported using sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Petabuse, we are not sure but they do get more publicity than in years past. Especially with high profile cases such as Michael Vick and his dog fighting ring.
Pacelle summed it up in his blog saying
“The decision is also significant in affirming, at the highest levels of our government, that animal cruelty is a vice just like so many other violent crimes. It is the latest tangible gain in our effort to make opposition to animal cruelty a universal value in our society.”
Since this will fix the issue of processing animal cruelty data into one data base, the problem of those charged on just a local or state level will be turned in to the FBI. That, in addition to any animal cruelty crimes investigated by the FBI, will at least give us (as well as authorities) a more accurate picture on how bad the abuse is for different areas. It may also clue local police in when a suspected animal abuser is run through a system such as NCIC.
Many abusers leave one state and start abusing animals in another state. Until a national registry for animal abusers becomes reality, the FBI tracking system will be key in the fight to stop animal abuse and neglect. It may also lead to the saving of human lives, since many criminals begin by abusing animals. Although it will be next year before the changes occur, and 2016 before statistics are required to be turned in, it’s a step in the right direction in protecting animals.
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