Animal rights advocates have applauded the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) decision to upgrade animal cruelty crimes, putting them in the same category as murders.
Going forward, anyone caught abusing animals will risk being charged with a Class A felony. That’s the same grouping of felonies for violent crimes, including homicides and assaults. Previously, animal cruelty was in an “other” crimes category, making them less important for law enforcement and prosecutors.
The changes are expected to result in more convictions for those harming animals, such as those involved in dog fighting rings.
“It will help get better sentences, sway juries and make for better plea bargains,” Madeline Bernstein, president and CEO of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles and a former New York prosecutor, told the Associated Press.
Beginning in 2016, the FBI also will begin collecting data on animal cruelty. This will enable the bureau to learn more about a correlation between animal cruelty and other crimes. Serial killers, for instance, often have histories of torturing and killing animals.