If you pay close attention to Facebook or watch the news, chances are that you often see upsetting images and stories that alert you to vicious crimes against scared and defenseless animals that occur every day all throughout this country (and this world). To say these actions are despicable is an understatement. To claim that justice is served by the light sentences often doled out in response to these vicious acts is lunacy. But the tide may be turning toward better reporting and recognizing (in a fuller way) the monstrosity at play when someone harms an animal, according to The Christian Science Monitor.
In 2016, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will begin collecting data on animal cruelty crimes throughout the country to prevent animal abuse and help flag those who might become violent offenders.
Animal cruelty crimes will now have their own organized category within the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), the FBI’s public collection of national crime statistics.
Practically, this move is going to make it easier for authorities to track incidences of animal cruelty, which will then allow for a greater focus on hotspots where this behavior occurs in an effort to curb crime against human beings. The CSM article cites a study from the New York State Humane Association that indicates that 63 to 70% of convicted violent criminals have a history of animal abuse, so that’s not an inconsequential thing should authorities be able to apply more resources to areas of concern. That’s going to help humans and keep animals safe, in the long run, but is this ultimately a half-measure?
According to the CSM article:
Animal rights advocates and law enforcement will now have access to organized data on convicted animal abusers such as age, criminal history, and location.
What about names? Thanks to Megan’s Law, we make the names of sex offenders available to the public in an effort to keep children safe and away from predators. Should we be doing the same thing to animal abusers, making it impossible for them to adopt animals from shelters or buy them from pet shops? The Humane Society of the U.S. has voiced their concerns about such a list in the past due to the threat of public shaming, but others have countered that.
Chris Green of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, which has worked to set up a national registry, told Huffington Post in 2013 that their focus is in preventing abusers from getting access to animals, not “creating a gallery of people.”
Since those remarks, the idea of a registry has popped up in many states, with New York City and multiple counties within the state having set up their own “Do Not Adopt” lists. Something that is setting the tone nationwide, according to a New York Daily News interview with former City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. from October.
“Other cities and states have looked at what we have done here in NYC to protect our animals, and are doing the same, […] There is even movement on the national level to get this done – so animals all over will be safer.”
Can the information on animal abusers collected by the NIBRS eventually help lead to a national “Do Not Adopt” database that is run by the government and capable of allaying concerns about privacy rights and public shaming while keeping animals safe? Time will tell if more states follow New York’s lead and if federal legislative action can be enacted, but the collection of this data is, at least, a positive step.