As of October 2014, the crime-busting dogs at the FBI announced that they were re-categorizing animal cruelty as a Class-A felony for data information purposes. Now animal abusers could potentially face jail-time in order to set a deterrent against future offenses.
Previously, animal cruelty was classified as “other,” making it a difficult crime to track, find, and statistically count. Now, animal cruelty will be listed in a similar manner to major crimes such as assault, homicide, and arson. It will divide the crime into four categories; intentional abuse and torture, simple or gross neglect, organized abuse (like dogfighting and cockfighting), and animal sexual abuse.
How does the FBI define animal cruelty?
“Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly taking an action that mistreats or kills any animal without just cause, such as torturing, tormenting, mutilation, maiming, poisoning, or abandonment. Included are instances of duty to provide care, e.g., shelter, food, water, care if sick or injured; transporting or confining an animal in a manner likely to cause injury or death; causing an animal to fight with another; inflicting excessive or repeated unnecessary pain or suffering, e.g., uses objects to beat or injure an animal. This definition does not include proper maintenance of animals for show or sport; use of animals for food, lawful hunting, fishing or trapping.”
The National Sheriff's Association was a primary force behind the change, as they are firm believers that animal cruelty is a key behavioral indicator of other crimes. The Animal Welfare Institute, succinctly stated the benefits; “Collecting this data will enable law enforcement agencies and researchers to understand the factors associated with animal abuse.”
Additionally, this information could provide the FBI with a better understanding of the factors that create violent crimes. For example, various studies have shown the link between animal cruelty and serial killers, as well as domestic abusers. Infamous serial killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer, Albert De Salvo (The Boston Strangler), and David Berkowitz (the Son of Sam) notoriously all tortured and killed animals before moving on to humans.
Director of the animal cruelty policy for the Humane Society of the United States, John Goodwin, lauded the action, saying it will help fill a much-needed information gap:
“Organizations such as ours try to keep track of various categories of animal-cruelty crime through news clips and through contacts we have in various jurisdictions, but nobody has the means to do it in a very thorough way. The FBI is the only entity that could do it to this scale. Now they’re going to start doing it.”