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Animal Cruelty Now Felony According to FBI
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Animal Cruelty Now Felony According to FBI

Summary: Due to data that shows many violent criminals abused animals during their youth, the FBI has created a new felony category for animal cruelty crimes. The FBI hopes that young offenders are stopped early and that data compiled will assist law enforcement with tracking patterns in such crimes.

Most people who have read about serial killers and other violent criminals know that usually, in their younger days, these people tortured and killed animals. This violence against animals often escalates until the violence against people begins.


ABC News reports that a new federal category for animal cruelty crimes will now stop people who abuse animals before they begin hurting people. The law will also assist with prosecution of animal cruelty cases.

Previously, the FBI filed animal abuse under an “other” label, which also included many lesser crimes. This made animal cruelty cases hard to track down. However, this month, the FBI will make animal cruelty a Group A felony with its own category. This is similar to categorization for crimes such as homicide, assault, and arson.

Madeline Bernstein, a former prosecutor and president and CEO of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles, said, “It will help get better sentences, sway juries and make for better plea bargains.”

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The new law will also have preventive effects, as young offenders may be stopped before they begin hurting other people. According to Bernstein, a defendant may realize “if he gets help now, he won’t turn into Jeffrey Dahmer.”

Law enforcement agencies will now report incidents and arrests under the category in four subcategories: simple or gross neglect; intentional abuse and torture; organized abuse, which includes dogfighting and cockfighting; and animal sexual abuse.

John Thompson, interim executive director of the National Sheriffs’ Association, stated, “The immediate benefit is it will be in front of law enforcement every month when they have to do their crime reports. That’s something we have never seen.”

Thompson added that officers will see the data are facts and not simply “somebody saying the ‘Son of Sam’ killed animals before he went to human victims and 70-some percent of the school shooters abused animals prior to doing their acts before people.” Thompson, a retired assistant sheriff from Prince George’s County, Maryland, aided in the creation of the new animal cruelty category.

Various FBI studies reveal that serial killers have a disturbing history of animal abuse. David Berkowitz, the “Son of Sam,” poisoned his own mother’s parakeet. Jeffrey Dahmer impaled the heads of cats, frogs and dogs on sticks. Albert DeSalvo, the “Boston Strangler,” trapped cats and dogs in wooden crates and shot arrows through the boxes until the animals died.

Of course, it will take time and money to fully update the FBI and law enforcement databases across the country, revise manuals, and ship out guidelines. Data will not be collected under the new category until January 2016. It may be several months into 2016 before there are numbers to disseminate.

Further, the new statistics will allow both police and counselors to work with children who demonstrate early signs of animal abuse, to prevent a young child who hurts animals in the present from transferring those behaviors to people later on.

The category will track crimes across the United States and will likely strengthen animal cruelty laws in all 50 states. In many states, there has been an increase in the number of those convicted of animal cruelty crimes being sent to prison.

Natasha Dolezal, director of the animal law program in the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, said, “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.”

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