A decade ago, there was no way of knowing if animal abuse was on the rise or decline because no data was being collected. However, thanks largely to Dr. Mary Lou Randour, that’s all changing this year!
Dr. Randour, a psychologist who gave up her career to devote herself full time to animal rights advocacy, found there was no one keeping track of animal-abuse crimes. Even the most cruel cases, like torture, fell under the category of “other” when local law enforcement agencies reported their statistics to the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Incident Based Reporting System. Randour dedicated years bringing awareness within the FBI to raise animal cruelty into its own offense category. After a huge lobbying effort, the FBI agreed. Now, the FBI has started collecting data on animal abuse the way it does for other serious crimes.
Neglect, mistreatment, torture, organized abuse and sexual abuse of animals is tracked just like homicide and other “Group A” offenses. Law enforcement is now required to report animal abuse to the FBI, in the same way they do murder and assault.
The FBI defines cruelty to animals as: “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.”
“These are creatures that suffer and we know their capacity to suffer. In most societies it’s recognized that creatures that are dependent on others, whether the elderly or children or animals, need to be protected.”, said Randour.
The FBI reported on four categories of crimes that will be tracked: simple or gross neglect, intentional abuse and torture, organized abuse (like dog fighting), and animal sexual abuse. Data collection began earlier in 2016 and will be available to the public next year.
In addition to protecting our furry friends, it also has great potential to protect victims of domestic violence. Research shows that animal abuse is linked to domestic violence and other crimes against people. Animal abuse is often followed by other violent offenses toward human victims.
“If somebody is harming an animal, there is a good chance they also are hurting a human,” said John Thompson, deputy executive director of the National Sheriffs’ Association. “If we see patterns of animal abuse, the odds are that something else is going on.”
The idea is that if more people can be convinced to dial 911 when they suspect animal abuse (something generally considered to be easier than reporting domestic abuse), that the police will then have a greater opportunity to uncover domestic violence.