Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James B. Comey officially announced a historic change in the identification and reporting of animal cruelty crime statistics. The FBI will now report animal cruelty crimes as a separate offense under the agency’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR) Program, the prime source of information on crime in the United States.
“The change instituted by the FBI formally recognizes the seriousness of animal abuse crimes and their negative impact on the welfare of society,” said Cathy Liss, president of the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI). “The data that will become available as a result of this change will help law enforcement better understand and respond to these types of crimes, which occur alongside many other forms of violence and criminal activity.”
AWI staff first suggested this policy change to the FBI 12 years ago. Previously, when and if information about animal cruelty crimes was captured in the UCR, the data were relegated to a catchall category entitled “All Other Offenses” and grouped in with a variety of other, mostly minor, crimes. With this significant revision, animal cruelty statistics will now be itemized separately and become available for review and analysis.
Animal cruelty crimes will be classified as distinct Group A offenses, joining other major crimes such as arson, assault, and homicide, and will require the reporting of both incidents and arrests. The reported crimes will be categorized as simple/gross neglect; intentional abuse and torture; organized abuse; and animal sexual abuse.
Critical assistance from the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA), which submitted its own request; the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA); and the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) helped achieve the positive recommendation for the reporting change from the FBI’s advisory committees.
NSA Deputy Executive Director John Thompson, who provided leadership on behalf of the proposal, said, “The National Sheriff’s Association is committed to providing law enforcement officers with information about the realities of animal abuse and its close link to other crimes. We are gratified by the FBI’s response and Director Comey’s commitment to improve public safety.”
The information on animal cruelty crimes that will become available through this reporting change will allow law enforcement agencies, policy makers, researchers, and others to better understand the factors associated with animal abuse, ascertain the characteristics of the perpetrators, and identify when and where such crimes occur, greatly benefiting the criminal justice community.
For more information on the UCR, please visit http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/ucr.