FBI turns animal cruelty into top-tier felony

Top StoriesLocal 21 News – by Sue Manning

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Young people who torture and kill animals are prone to violence against people later in life if it goes unchecked, studies have shown. A new federal category for animal cruelty crimes will help root out those pet abusers before their behavior worsens and give a boost to prosecutions, an animal welfare group says.

For years, the FBI has filed animal abuse under the label “other” along with a variety of lesser crimes, making cruelty hard to find, hard to count and hard to track. The bureau announced this month that it would make animal cruelty a Group A felony with its own category – the same way crimes like homicide, arson and assault are listed.  

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

The category also will help identify young offenders, and a defendant might realize “if he gets help now, he won’t turn into Jeffrey Dahmer,” she said.

Law enforcement agencies will have to report incidents and arrests in four areas: simple or gross neglect; intentional abuse and torture; organized abuse, including dogfighting and cockfighting; and animal sexual abuse, the FBI said in statement. The bureau didn’t answer questions beyond a short statement.

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

Officers will start to see the data are facts and “not just 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,” said Thompson, a retired assistant sheriff from Prince George’s County, Maryland.

FBI studies show that serial killers like Dahmer impaled the heads of dogs, frogs and cats on sticks; David Berkowitz, known as the “Son of Sam,” poisoned his mother’s parakeet; and Albert DeSalvo, aka the “Boston Strangler,” trapped cats and dogs in wooden crates and killed them by shooting arrows through the boxes.

It will take time and money to update FBI and law enforcement databases nationwide, revise manuals and send out guidelines, Thompson said, so there won’t be any data collected until January 2016. After that, it will take several months before there are numbers to analyze.

The new animal cruelty statistics will allow police and counselors to work with children who show early signs of trouble, so a preschooler hurting animals today isn’t going to be hurting a person two years from now, Bernstein said.

The FBI’s category will track crimes nationwide and is bound to give animal cruelty laws in all 50 states more clout. Many states are seeing more of those convicted of animal cruelty being sentenced to prison, in marked contrast to years past.

Whether talking about state laws or the FBI change, it is clear “that 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,” said Natasha Dolezal, director of the animal law program in the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon.

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10 thoughts on “FBI turns animal cruelty into top-tier felony

  1. really?

    so if this “law” is truly followed , than these dog killing cops should all be doing serious time

    I got no problem with that.. lets make it stick..to them too

    how much more abuse can it be to shoot an innocent dog?

  2. Those that abuse animals and are not caught go on to work in commercial feed operations for big ag where they are protected because if you take a picture of the operation then you go to jail, not them.

  3. So I’m guessing that doesn’t include cops killing dogs and committing animal cruelty by leaving their police dogs in a car for 6 hours in the searing heat with the windows up. Yea that’s just a simple misdemeanor for them, but for us, it is the equivalent of killing a cop and a felony. I see how it is. Can’t harm the king’s men, only the peasants.

  4. BUT, BUT, it’s ok to kill innocent humans and animals in a no-knock raid and get away with it if you’re a cop. Maybe they should check the cops backgrounds to see if they have a Jeffery Dahmer or David Berkowitz complex before they get on the force.

  5. OOP’S, I just realized the stupidity of my last statement about cops having a complex. That is what they want on the force.

  6. I have a relative that (as a kid) used to breed rabbits, let them go and then hunt them with a long stick with knives taped to it–not for food, just for fun. One time he took out a whole litter of baby rabbits one at a time, snapped their necks and threw them in the swimming pool. He liked fire a bit too much and he dug big holes that he covered with rotten boards and leaves to make traps. His mom fell in one trap and broke her leg.

    My dad and I both used to say that he was going to grow up to be a murderer. And now he’s in prison for murder. It’s not hard to spot who the sociopaths are as children. Nobody can change them in my opinion. They are who they are, and sociopathy is a physical mental illness, a problem in the paralimbic part of the brain (musta been an inherited gift from his mystery dad).

  7. I’m sure a read an article many months ago about the FBI concentrating on counter terrorism and away from domestic law enforcement.
    Of course, we all know that they will label anything terrorism. They’ll even set up a turn key operation for some poor guy. Heck they’ll even pay him for it.
    So I guess animal cruelty is the terror flavor of the week.
    I agree that cops shooting dogs should absolutely be included…exact same punishment as Michael Vick.

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