FBI cracks down on animal abuse

Animal cruelty is now recognized as a class A felony

Licia Torres, Reporter, Scottsdale Chronicle

  Animal abuse in Arizona is no longer grouped under an “All Other Offenses” category, as the big dogs at the FBI are now enforcing acts of cruelty against animals as a class A felony.
  The Federal Bureau of Investigation has established four categories – neglect, intentional abuse and torture, sexual abuse and organized abuse with regards to animals. The Class A felony for animal abuse is side by side with arson and homicide.
  Michael Morefield, Communications Manager at the Arizona Animal Welfare League, believes that the new stipulations are a positive move in keeping animals protected from abuse.
  “I think this law will help us start learning about the patterns of abuse,” Morefield said. “This will allow them [FBI] to find the neighborhoods with high cases of animal abuse.”
  Former NFL star Michael Vick was sentenced to up to 23 months in prison in 2007 for his involvement in a high-profile dog fighting operation. Vick, who currently plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers, served 21 of the 23 months.
  “I think for years this has been a problem,” Phoenix dog owner Ryan Bell said. “I think it’s been publicized a lot more lately with the start of Michael Vick and trying to make an example out of him.”
  The National Incident Based Reporting system began entering data on Jan. 1, 2016. The FBI uses this public database to keep track of national crimes, which of course includes Arizona, according to the feds.
  “The data will allow people to have solutions and policing patterns of abuse in areas,” Morefield said. “It will try and stop abuse before it happens.”
  According to the Humane Society of the United States, studies have shown there are links between the abuse of animals and violence against people.
  “It’s good to break it down [abuse categories] because the levels are bearing,” Bell said. “Serial killers start out on animals, that’s been proven and researched over and over again.”
  Arizona law states that animal abusers face harsh penalties depending on the category. Some of the penalties include fines up to $2,500 and/or jail for 6 months. Killing or harming an animal has fines up to $150,000 and/or a year and a half of imprisonment.
  “The categories will enable better focus on what type of abuse is happening,” Morefield said. “It’s really important and well make a positive impact on animal welfare in the future.”
  If you spot animal abuse, it can be reported to Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s animal cruelty hotline at 602-876-1681 or the Arizona Humane Society at 602-997-7585.
  “The tracking of animal crimes by the FBI is a great step forward and an understanding toward animal cruelty in trends and how it may lead to other crimes,” Arizona Humane Society spokesperson Bretta Nelson said.