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FBI now tracking animal cruelty crime data

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is now tracking acts of animal cruelty in California and nationwide along with other serious crimes like assault, arson, burglary and homicide. The change began on Jan. 1, and the agency is hoping the data will help it get a better grasp on the problem.

The FBI's National Incident-Based Reporting System now collects animal cruelty data, including incidents of torture, gross neglect and sexual abuse, from participating law enforcement agencies. Prior to 2016, these crimes were lumped under a catch-all category called "All Other Offenses" in the agency's annual Crime in the United States report. One of the top reasons advocates have lobbied to collect detailed animal abuse statistics is because it has proven to be a precursor to harming humans for many criminals. Notorious murderers who began by torturing and killing animals include "Son of Sam" killer David Berkowitz, Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer.

Advocates say that having law enforcement agencies report animal cruelty cases to the NIBRS will provide critical data which can be used to establish criminal patterns. That is due to the fact that the NIBRS requires not only the details of the crime but also the contextual circumstances of the incident. Such data could help investigators intervene on behalf of animal and human victims. The first animal cruelty statistics will be made available later this year, but the FBI says that it will take up to five years to establish meaningful criminal patterns.

A person who is facing this type of felony charge may want to have the assistance of a criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible. An attorney could protect a defendant's rights during police questioning and build a strategy to fight the allegations at trial.

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