The Law Offices of John Phebus

FBI now tracking animal abuse cases nationwide

Arizona pet owners might be interested to learn that the FBI began keeping detailed records of animal cruelty cases across the United States on Jan. 1. The agency already monitors serious crimes like homicide, assault, arson and burglary.

Studies have shown that cruelty to animals is a starting point for many violent criminals, including serial killers. Notorious murderers Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy and David Berkowitz, known for the "Son of Sam" killings, all had a history of animal cruelty. Some groups who have advocated for tracking animal abuse data, including the National Sheriffs' Association, believe that the information could help law enforcement intervene before animal abusers move up to human victims.

Before 2016, animal cruelty cases were lumped into a general offense category in the FBI's annual Crime in the United States report. Now, animal cruelty cases will be collected by the FBI's National Incident-Based Reporting System, which currently covers 31 percent of the U.S. Participating local law enforcement agencies nationwide will report the details and context of animal abuse acts, including torture, gross neglect, sexual abuse and organized abuse, to the NIBRS. The first numbers will not be available until later this year, and the FBI says it will take three to five years to find meaningful criminal patterns in the data.

Arizona residents facing this type of a felony charge could help their chances by immediately retaining a criminal defense attorney. An attorney could ensure a defendant's rights are protected during police questioning. Legal counsel could also review a case for any inconsistencies or inaccuracies that could raise reasonable doubts of a defendant's guilt.

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