FBI Sets Eye on Animal Cruelty in National Crime Statistics

Persistence pays off! In June, after years of effort by AWI staff members, the FBI’s Advisory Policy Board (APB) unanimously approved the addition of animal cruelty crimes as a separate entry in the Uniform Crime Report (UCR). The FBI director approved the APB’s recommendation on September 11.

As the FBI explains on its website, the UCR “has been the starting place for law enforcement executives, students of criminal justice, researchers, members of the media, and the public at large seeking information on crime in the nation.” The FBI has been compiling and publishing these statistics since 1930. The crime data are received from over 18,000 city, university/college, county, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies and submitted either through a state UCR Program or directly to the FBI’s UCR Program.

Currently, while most reporting agencies do collect data on animal cruelty crimes, the information is generally rendered of little value because it is housed in a catch-all category—“All Other Offenses”—where it is lost in the mix with a variety of other crimes. As a result of this policy shift, however, the data on animal cruelty crimes will appear in the UCR as its own category and will thus be available for separate review and analysis. Law enforcement officials, policymakers, and researchers will be better able to track and understand animal abuse, identify trends, and allocate resources. AWI’s efforts to bring about this pivotal change received critical support from the National Sheriffs Association, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

The animal cruelty crimes to be reported include simple/gross neglect, intentional abuse and torture, organized abuse, and animal sexual abuse. They will be classified as Group A offenses, a category that includes such major crimes as arson, assault, and homicide. Classification in this category requires the reporting of both incidents and arrests (whereas classification in Group B requires only that arrests be reported—thus yielding far less information).

The APB’s recommendation defines animal abuse and neglect as “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly taking an action that mistreats or kills any animal without just cause” and includes failure “to provide care … ; transporting or confining an animal in a manner likely to cause injury or death; causing an animal to fight with another; [and] inflicting excessive or repeated unnecessary pain or suffering.” The definition of abuse and neglect excludes “proper maintenance of animals for show or sport; use of animals for food, lawful hunting, fishing or trapping.”

With the inclusion of animal cruelty crimes, the UCR will provide a more complete picture not only of overall crime, but also of a serious type of crime that is linked with so many others, such as domestic violence, drugs, illegal weapons, and gang activity.

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