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Increase Public Safety by Actively Working Together to Combat Animal Cruelty

December 15, 2016 

In the United States, state and federal animal protection statutes have been in existence for over a century. Recent animal cruelty cases involve abuse of show horses, dog-fighting rings, stolen animals for medical research, animal crush videos and cock-fighting schemes. Animal cruelty cases carry dual importance in law enforcement as there is a suspected link between cases of animal cruelty and occurrence of other violent behaviors like domestic violence, child and elder abuse and public safety concerns.1 Research suggests that animal cruelty may also serve as an indicator for future violent behavior and capturing animal cruelty data may enhance law enforcement efforts and investigations in mitigating criminal behavior.

The importance of collaboration among state, local and federal organizations investigating cases of animal cruelty cannot be overstated. Animal cruelty cases are often highly complex, involve numerous individuals and may take place over a number of years. Collaborating on animal cruelty cases and coordinating with animal welfare organizations is essential to providing life-saving care to the affected animals and preserving key evidence.

On July 28th, 2016 the Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Justice Programs Animal Cruelty Working Group hosted a roundtable to highlight the successes and challenges of collaborating on these cases and how law enforcement and animal welfare experts can work together to combat animal cruelty. More than 100 participants from state and local government, federal agencies and non-profit organizations attended, and enjoyed impactful presentations on new developments in state and local organization, information sharing and examples of successful cooperation.

This roundtable is not the first collaboration effort to take place. In 2013, the DOJ explored animal welfare in connection to domestic violence, gang activity and narcotics and gun trafficking. In 2016, the National Incident-Based Reporting Systems (NIBRS) began collecting data on animal cruelty crimes in the hopes of documenting the link between animal cruelty and other crimes affecting public safety.2

NIBRS is an invaluable tool for law enforcement agencies to track the demographics of offenders committing acts of animal cruelty. It also helps agencies identify important patterns of abuse. Additionally, utilizing data on animal cruelty and determining patterns of animal abuse allows law enforcement agencies to enhance efforts in community policing and to predict future patterns of offenders when related to the intersection of animal abuse and public safety.

Overall, it is evident there remains a great need for collaboration and information sharing among all entities working in areas of enforcement of animal cruelty laws. Information sharing, data tracking and collaboration are the keys to investigating animal cruelty cases, and these efforts have the potential to contribute to enhanced public safety while ensuring animal welfare remains a priority.


1The Intersection Between Animal Cruelty and Public Safety. April 30, 2013. U.S. Department of Justice (

2Federal-State-Local Cooperation in Animal Welfare Enforcement. August 15, 2016. U.S. Department of Justice (

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