The importance of protecting animals from cruelty inflicted by people, who seem to disregard the fact that animals are sentient beings similar to humans, has been validated by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), which has now added animal cruelty to its list of Class A felonies.
As of the beginning of 2016, the FBI started logging cases of animal abuse in their Incident-Based Reporting System where it keeps records of other felonies, such as homicide and arson.
A big motivating factor behind the effort to track animal abusers is the link between animal cruelty and every type of violent and non-violent crime.
“Regardless of whether people care about how animals are treated, people — like legislators and judges — care about humans, and they can’t deny the data.” ~ Natasha Dolezal, director of the animal law program in the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon
Dolezal is referring to mounting research regarding the link between crime against animals and crime at large. An example are the studies conducted by the New York State Humane Association which have revealed:
“Nearly all violent criminals and violent psychiatric patients were abused as children, and nearly all started committing animal cruelty at an early age.
More than a dozen studies of violent criminals and psychiatric patients have established a firm relationship between cruelty to animals during childhood and later recurring violence to humans. In all cases, the perpetrators suffered an abusive childhood: neglect, brutality, psychological, and/or sexual abuse.”
Using data from state and federal prisons, psychiatric institutions, shelters, clinics, as well as through direct interviews with murderers, the Association reported the following:
Animal rights activists are excited about the new change because they believe it will boost prosecutions of animal abusers.
Prior to 2016, the FBI filed animal cruelty cases under the label “other,” bundling them with many other lesser crimes which made offenders hard to find and link. Although 13 U.S. states and Washington DC consider animal cruelty a felony, prison sentences for such crimes have been rare.
“It will help get better sentences, sway juries and make for better plea bargains.” ~ Madeline Bernstein, president and CEO of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles and a former New York prosecutor
Each month new animal cruelty crime reports will now be presented in front of law officials. Crimes will be categorized into four types: neglect; intentional abuse and torture; organized abuse, such as cock and dog fighting; and sexual abuse of animals.
Police and counselors will be given the opportunity to work with children and youth who display early signs of violence before they turn to crimes directed at other people.
“FBI studies show that serial killers like Dahmer impaled the heads of dogs, frogs and cats on sticks; David Berkowitz, known as the “Son of Sam,” poisoned his mother’s parakeet; and Albert DeSalvo, aka the “Boston Strangler,” trapped cats and dogs in wooden crates and killed them by shooting arrows through the boxes.”
The switch in the FBI protocol will hopefully, in time, lessen the cruelty inflicted on animals in domestic and community settings, as well as identify and help conflicted and abused youth, but, this new categorization of animal cruelty does bring up some questions.
Will there be a time in the near future that judges and legislators start to recognize the importance of the well-being of animals, regardless of fact that animal abuse has become an indicator of potential for other crimes?
Will they acknowledge the widespread animal cruelty on factory farms and in slaughterhouses, and that the corporations that authorize these crimes should be prohibited from continuing such practices?