Two years ago the Vermont Volunteer Services for Animals (VVSA) humane society, based in Bridgewater, Vt., was asked by state police to conduct a statewide survey of reported acts of neglect and abuse towards animals, including the number of cases, which agencies responded, and how the reports were handled. Starting January 2016, police departments are required to report any reported crimes related to animals to the national database at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
According to Sue Skaskiw, executive director for VVSA, data collected from across the country will give credence to what those involved in the prevention of animal abuse have known for years—that abusers do not stop to count the legs of their victims.
The FBI has identified four types of animal abuse: simple/gross neglect, intentional abuse and torture, organized abuse (cock and dog fighting) and sexual abuse of an animal.
Cruelty to animals as defined by the FBI is: “Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly taking an action that mistreats or kills any animal without just cause, such as torturing, tormenting, mutilation, maiming, poisoning, or abandonment. Included are instances of duty to provide care, e.g., shelter, food, water, care if sick or injured; transporting or confining an animal in a manner likely to cause injury or death; causing an animal to fight with another; inflicting excessive or repeated unnecessary pain or suffering, e.g., uses objects to beat or injure an animal.”
The FBI’s expanded scope of data collection on animal abuse is “one of the most dynamic and significant changes ever,” said Phil Arkow, founder of the National Link Coalition based in Stratford, N.J., which conducts research, training and education on the link between animal abuse and human violence. “The new data will help activists and researchers give legislators a better understanding of the prevalence and nature of animal abuse,” Arkow said. “Collecting information about animal abuse incidents is also important because many cases of animal cruelty do not involve police charges.”
“Animal cruelty has been traditionally minimized by law enforcement because it doesn’t involve people being hurt,” Arkow continued. But now, animal abuse can no longer be trivialized and considered in isolation to other crimes, he noted. Animal cruelty and neglect is too often “the tip of the iceberg” because “the way animals are treated in a family is linked to family dynamics and domestic violence,” he said.
Studies have shown that mass murders and serial killers first begin with the abuse of animals.
Report incidents to your local law enforcement agency and VVSA at 802-672-5302.