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Home / Articles / Pets / FBI Begins Tracking Animal Abuse

FBI Begins Tracking Animal Abuse

Report may spot areas where domestic violence is more likely

  • By
  • Apr 27, 2016
FBI Begins Tracking Animal Abuse

There has long been a link between those who abuse animals and those who abuse people. According to the American Humane Association, more than 70 percent of female domestic abuse survivors who own pets, and who sought help at women’s shelters, reported that their abuser had threatened, injured, maimed or even killed family pets for revenge or to gain psychological control over their victims.

Thanks to determined psychologist and animal welfare advocate Mary Lou Randour, the FBI will begin tracking animal abuse in a much more effective way. Up until this year, animal cruelty cases were grouped into an “Other Offenses” category, along with such things such as loitering, writing bad checks and violating curfew. Through the National Incident-Based Reporting System of the FBI, the bureau will now classify animal cruelty as a Group A felony, the same classification of offense as homicide, arson or assault.

It was an 11-year fight for Randour, a psychologist of 20 years who works with the Animal Welfare Institute. “It was in March 2003 when we suggested to the FBI that it would be good to consider this. There’s lots of data that shows the link between animal cruelty and other crimes.”

Two examples of such data include a six-year study conducted throughout 11 U.S. cities that showed pet abuse represented an increased risk factor for both domestic violence and child abuse. Another study by the Chicago Police Department revealed that, of those arrested for animal cruelty, 65 percent of them had also been arrested for battery against a person.

The FBI’s new classification system went into effect Jan. 1, 2016. It will track the location, but not the offender or accused offender’s name, of all incidents of animal cruelty, whether or not an arrest is made or charges are brought. “Now we can see the pockets in a city that seem to have the most overlap between animal cruelty and [reports of] domestic violence. Organizations can target resources and do more interventions here,” says Randour.

The Humane Society of the United States CEO Wayne Pacelle called the new policy “a real incentive for law enforcement agencies to pay closer attention [to animal abuse],” with hopes that these agencies will “allocate officers and financial resources to handle these cases, track trends and deploy accordingly.”

The crime-tracking data the FBI collects this year will be accessible to the public for review in 2017.

“It feels really good,” says Randour. “It’ll help not just the animals, but whole families, whole communities.”

You can read more about how advocates are raising awareness between animal abuse and domestic violence as part of the National Link Coalition