Research shows animal abusers are more likely to also harm people. It is this link that inspired the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to change the way it classifies those who harm animals.
Beginning in January 2016, animal abusers will be a part of a new category in the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), which collects and reports crime statistics from around the country. Law enforcement agencies will have four classification categories under animal cruelty. Included are intentional abuse or torture, organized abuse, simple or gross neglect and animal sexual abuse.
Studies have established that, similar to people, animals feel pain and fear. Those who understand the link between crimes towards animals and people are in a better position to prevent future violence, says attorney and advocate Allie Phillips.
Harming animals is labeled as a crime against society and is a Group A offense. Other crimes in that grouping include homicide, arson and kidnapping. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program is used by criminologists, law enforcement and researchers.
Previously, those who abused or neglected animals were included in a catch-all other category.
The FBI’s new data classification brought with it confusion among some in the equine industry. While a step forward, the change does not make animal cruelty a federal crime. It also does not dictate that all animal cruelty cases be prosecuted as felonies. Additionally, the FBI is not getting involved in investigating cases where animals are abused.
The results of the new category for animal abusers will be available to the public a year after its launch. Advocates say changing how these statistics are reported will show important trends over the coming years.