FBI names animal cruelty a 'top tier' crime - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

FBI names animal cruelty a 'top tier' crime

(Photo Source: WMC Action News 5) (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) -

The FBI has now named animal cruelty as a top tier crime along with arson, burglary, kidnapping, and homicide.

The new federal category for animal cruelty crimes is expected to root out pet abusers and give a boost to prosecutions.

Animal advocate Cindy Sanders, who co-founded the Community Action for Animals organization, is happy about the changes.

"Animal cruelty is a huge problem," said Sanders. "Honestly, it's big everywhere but the Mid-South and the Deep South show some of the highest concentrations.

When the changes go into effect, federal law will regard animal cruelty as a crime against society.

"If it's a dog fighting case where it's taking part in a couple of states, that's a federal law," Sanders explained. "If it is an animal abuse case of a puppy mill that is shipping across the country that makes it a federal type thing."

For years, the FBI has filed animal abuse charges under the label "other," along with a variety of lesser crimes. This categorization made cruelty hard to find, count, and track.

Since animal cruelty is considered a more serious crime under the new rules, reports will now be documented in the National Incident-Based Reporting System. This action will advance how law enforcement officials understand how to prevent these often violent crimes.

Sanders says the collected information could be used as an early warning sign to help identify people who start out abusing animals and end up abusing humans.

"We see almost every defendant accused of a level of animal cruelty has had child abuse, spouse abuse, violent assault arrests," Sanders explained. "They have a history."

Sanders says cities and states will still have their own criteria for animal cruelty charges, but she sees the new laws as a level of enforcement regarding people who hurt animals. She hopes the federal changes will motivate state legislatures to put more laws on the books to protect animals.

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