Animal Abuse is a very disturbing part of our society. Statistics show how this kind of violence is detrimental to the well being of society as a whole. Psychologists have long linked those who abuse animals with deeper more sinister crimes. Kids who start abusing defenseless animals usually progress into more aggressive crimes. The FBI criminalists look for backgrounds of animal abuse when profiling serial murderers. More than 80 percent of children rescued from abuse also detailed a history of their abusers active violence against animals.

With the FBI making animal cruelty a top tier felony will help root out those abusers before their behavior worsens and gives a boost to prosecutors. 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 hart to track. It has designated animal cruelty a Group A felony with its own category—the same way crimes like homicide, arson and assault are listed.

Law punishing those who injure an animal has not kept up with the violent nature of the crime. However, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard has joined the rest of the country by enacting a bill that will make all animal abuse in the state a felony. Now all 50 states label such crimes of abuse against animals as a major crime.

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. Law enforcement agencies will have to report incidents and arrests in four areas: simple or gross neglect; intentional abuse and torture; organized abuse, including dog fighting and cockfighting; and animal sexual abuse, the FBI said in the 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, an interim executive director for the National Sheriffs’ Association who worked to get the new animal cruelty category instituted.

FBI studies show that serial killers like Dahmer impaled the head of dogs, frogs and cats on sticks; David Berkowitz, known as the “Son of Sam,” poisoned his mother’s parakeet; and Albert DeSalvo, aka “Boston Strangler,” trapped cats and dogs in wooden crated 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 so according to Thompson, there will not 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.

Society as whole has yet to embrace the importance of criminalizing animal abuse. The more mental health professionals learn about what makes up the mentality and personality of an animal abuser, the more important it is to know who is capable of such evil acts.

Tennessee became the first state to publicly post an animal abuse registry this year (2016), and animal advocates hope other states will soon follow. Tennessee’s registry includes the names, photos, birth dates and home addresses of the people who have been convicted of animal abuse. People on the registry will not be able to adopt animals from the shelter. Unfortunately, at this time the registry is empty since it can only include people convicted after January 1, 2016.

State Representative Darren Jernigan introduced the registry at the suggestion of his neighbor, after a Tennessee resident by the name of David Matson was convicted of beating a puppy to death with a tire iron. The bill was passed in May 2015 with only one lawmaker voting against it. While several U.S. cities like New York City have animal abuse registries, Tennessee’s is the first statewide registry.

While other states are considering in implementing statewide registry, it is only at the point of consideration. “Reach out to your state representative, write letters, talk to the media,” Amber Mullins, communications director for the Humane Society of Tennessee Valley recommends. Start making noise.

CategoryCriminal Law