Animal Cruelty Crimes

Introduction

Recognizing the importance of animal cruelty crimes and their effect not only on animal welfare but also on public safety, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) added animal cruelty crime incidents to the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS)—the FBI’s national crime database—in 2015. Consequently, collection of data on animal cruelty crimes began the following year.

When changes are made to NIBRS, it typically takes a few years before all of those changes are adopted by the 16,000+ independent law enforcement agencies that report crime data to the FBI. With respect to animal cruelty crime reporting, the transition toward full adoption is still underway, but some 2017 and 2018 data on animal cruelty crimes is now available in the FBI’s crime reports. As data continues to flow in and more law enforcement agencies begin to report, it is becoming ever more possible to determine trends and obtain an accurate assessment of the occurrence of animal cruelty, where it is happening, and the characteristics of offenders.

What is an incident?

Under NIBRS, an incident is any report of a suspected offense, either from a citizen or initiated by a law enforcement officer, animal control officer, or humane law enforcement official. To be “counted,” there does not have to be an investigation or an arrest, simply an incident.

AWI’s role in NIBRS animal cruelty incident collection

AWI played a critical role in persuading the FBI to add animal cruelty crimes to NIBRS. Once the FBI agreed to do so, we began reaching out to law enforcement, humane law enforcement, and animal control agencies to promote implementation of this new policy. AWI also helped develop tools to facilitate agencies’ efforts to comply.

We will continue to play an important role by (1) analyzing the data so that law enforcement officials and the public can obtain a clearer picture of animal cruelty in particular localities and (2) shining a light on states that have been more successful in adopting the new policy and adding animal cruelty crimes to their NIBRS reporting.

Animal Cruelty Incidents Reported to FBI’s NIBRS: State Rankings

The NIBRS Animal Cruelty Reporting scorecard is one tool that law enforcement officials and the public in each state can use to see how their state is faring and how it compares to the efforts of others.

Rank State % of Population Participating in NIBRS Animal Cruelty Incidents Per 100,000 of Population
1 DE 100 113.42
2 CO 99.05 13.86
3 NH 97.11 13.13
4 ND 99.96 10.66
5 OR 96.79 10.38
6 MT 99.89 8.67
7 TN 100 6.83
8 VT 100 6.54
9 SC 100 5.88
10 HI 70 5.09
11 WI 60.45 4.38
12 KY 99.59 4.17
13 MI 99.72 3.99
14 SD 95.07 2.86
15 CT 88.17 2.35
16 WA 99.65 1.7
17 OH 80.15 1.08
18 MA 85.84 0.74
19 WV 87.64 0.69
20 ID 99.67 0.4

About the scorecard

  • The striking difference between Delaware and other states in its reported animal cruelty crime rate is due in large part to Delaware’s more streamlined and successful system for capturing and reporting animal cruelty crime statistics (and not to a vastly higher rate of animal cruelty incidents in the state). Delaware’s statewide Office of Animal Welfare is primarily responsible for reporting animal cruelty crime incidents, while other states rely on the individual law enforcement agencies to report.
  • Not all states are in the NIBRS system. Some states that are participating in NIBRS are not yet collecting animal cruelty crime incidents, and a few states reported fewer than six animal cruelty incidents in 2018—an indication that adoption of the new policy is still in its early stages in that state. Those states are excluded.
  • The 20 states that met the criteria are shown above in rank order of animal cruelty incidents reported as a percentage of the population. As with Delaware, but to a lesser degree, a high ranking at this stage is probably a reflection of the fact that the state has been more successful than other states in capturing animal cruelty crime statistics. Hence states with the highest number of reported animal cruelty incidents receive the highest ranking.
  • A crime rate for a particular crime or class of crimes is calculated by dividing the number of reported crimes of that nature by the total population; the result is multiplied by 100,000 to give the number of such crimes per 100,000 general population. (For example, in 2010 there were 58,100 reported robberies in California in a total state population of 38,826,898. Dividing 58,100 by 38,826,898 then multiplying by 100,000 produces a rate of 149.6 robberies per 100,000 general population in California.)

Reported Crime Incidents

  • The second chart offers a context by comparing the animal cruelty crime rate at the national level with rates for crimes often associated with animal cruelty—assault, vandalism, robbery, and drugs.
  • To view a full version of the scorecard, click here.

For questions about the scorecard, please contact Mary Lou Randour, PhD, at marylou@awionline.org.

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