In recent years, the National Sheriffs’ Association has become a prominent advocate for tracking animal-rights issues. The group’s advocacy work played a key role in convincing the FBI to add animal-cruelty crimes to a database commonly used by law enforcement.
The FBI is taking cases of animal cruelty more seriously than ever—and we have the National Sheriffs’ Association to thank for it.
For years, the association, a top advocate for adding animal-abuse data to the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), has been making its case that such crimes should be taken more seriously as a sign of future criminality. Beyond crimes such as child abuse and domestic violence, infamous serial killers, such as Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer, had well-documented histories of animal abuse.
“If somebody is harming an animal, there is a good chance they also are hurting a human,” explained John Thompson, the group’s deputy executive director, in a blog post on the FBI website. “If we see patterns of animal abuse, the odds are that something else is going on.”
The FBI agreed and in January officially made animal-abuse crimes part of the agency’s NIBRS database. Previously, such crimes had been lumped into an annual report called Crime in the United States—which itself was a change that had only been made in 2014. But by getting more granular, both the association and the FBI hope to better spot warning signs, before it’s too late.
According to a report by The Dodo, the incident reports will document numerous types of animal abuse, including neglect; torture; animal sexual abuse; and organized abuse, such as dog fighting.
The sheriffs’ association has taken a more serious interest in animal-cruelty issues in recent years, including launching the National Law Enforcement Center on Animal Abuse, in 2014.
At that same time the association partnered with the Humane Society of the United States to launch an iOS and Android app called ICE BlackBox, which allows people to record and report cases of animal abuse to the proper authorities.
“Law enforcement plays a unique role in the prevention of, and response to, animal abuse,” the association’s Thompson said in a news release [PDF]. “As a result, steps are currently being taken by law enforcement to better protect communities from animal cruelty offenders.”