A big win for animals—and for law enforcement.
On January 1 of this year, the Federal Bureau of Investigations began tracking animal abuse in the same way that it tracks homicide, assault, and arson. The FBI had announced in late 2014 that it was changing the way it treats those convicted of the charge of animal cruelty: It’s now a Group A felony, like homicide, burglary, and drug trafficking.
“These are creatures that suffer and we know their capacity to suffer,” the psychologist turned animal rights advocate Mary Lou Randour told The Washington Postlast week. Radnour was instrumental in convincing the FBI to shift its stance toward animal abuse. “In most societies it’s recognized that creatures that are dependent on others, whether the elderly or children or animals, need to be protected,” she said.
Previously, the FBI collected data on animal abuse in its “other” category in the National Incident Based Reporting System.
The FBI’s actions are a “huge policy shift and significant step forward,” Scott Heiser, an attorney with the Animal Defense League, told the Post.
Proponents of the change say collecting data on animal abuse will not only protect defenseless animals, but will also help the authorities stop those who hurt humans. Many studies have found links between cruelty to animals and interpersonal violence. In fact, the FBI first became interested in the new tracking approach because animal advocates “believe that animal cruelty [is] an early indicator of violent crime,” FBI Unit Chief Amy Blasher said in 2015.
Data on animal abuse collected this year will be released to the public in 2017. “I think there is truth to the notion [that law enforcement] will be a lot more interested when they recognize how much volume [of animal abuse] there really is,” Heiser, the attorney, told the Post.
(Via The Washington Post)