Author: M. Sullivan

Starting in 2016, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will reclassify animal abuse as a “Group A” felony in its National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), which means that it will be a top-tier federal crime.

In the past, animal abuse crimes have been listed under “Group B,” which includes writing bad checks and trespassing, in the category of “All Other Offenses,” which is an aggregate of minor crimes. Under the new guidelines, however, abuse against animals will be comparable to more serious crimes, such as kidnapping and homicide.

The change will make it easier to track and quantify animal abuse crimes, which will hopefully result in improved enforcement and stronger accountability. With luck, the move will encourage municipal police to reform their policies to reflect the new law, and perhaps reduce or put an end to animal abuse by police and citizens alike.

The new animal cruelty category will include four offense types: simple or gross neglect, deliberate abuse or torture, organized abuse (e.g. dog fighting), and sexual abuse against an animal.

The FBI has been working with the National Sheriff’s Association and Animal Welfare Institute to implement the new category this year, and plan to collect data for such crimes beginning in January 2016. Animal cruelty statistics will be publicly available when the 2016 NIBRS is released the following year.