Investigating Animal Cruelty & Crime
It's only been three years since the FBI implemented America's first nationwide effort to track animal-related crime. In 2016, animal cruelty was re-categorized as a Group A felony in the FBI's National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). This is the same category as rape, murder and arson.
The move to Group A meant that the circumstances under which animal-related crimes are to be documented changed. Any time a report is made, whether or not there has been an arrest, the investigating officer must complete an animal cruelty report.
These reports can be long and tedious. Use this Animal Cruelty Investigations Checklist to guide you as you collect all the information needed to fill the report out properly.
It's been a major step forward for animal rights, but what do the new investigating and documenting procedures mean for the SPCA, humane law enforcement and animal cruelty investigators?
From “Summary-Based” Statistics to “Incident-Based” Data
Animal cruelty can be divided into two groups: neglect and direct abuse. Animal neglect, failing to provide the basic needs for an animal such as shelter of veterinary care, makes up the majority of reported cases.
Animal abuse, such as physical violence and animal fighting, is a rarer occurrence. Direct abuse is commonly linked to other criminal activities such as violence against humans, drug distribution, human trafficking.
Before moving animal cruelty to Group A, the FBI only collected “summary-based statistics” for both direct abuse and animal neglect. Summary-based statistics only indicate that a crime occurred. Animal cruelty investigators must now provide a much richer “incident-based” dataset that will tell a detailed story from which we can learn.
A reliable, specialized case management solution can make your animal cruelty investigations more efficient and consistent. Let us tell you how.
Why Better Data Matters
Studies have shown that cruelty to animals is a precursor to cruelty to humans. Data trends indicate that children who commit animal cruelty are more likely to grow up and commit more dangerous and vile crimes. Cruelty to animals is also sometimes an indicator of other criminal behavior. Organized dog fighting and cruelty are sometimes part of a larger criminal scheme involving drug or human trafficking.
Knowing where crimes occur and who is responsible for them makes it easier to intervene and correct children who show early signs of trouble or individuals deeply ingrained in criminal activity. The data will influence how law enforcement, animal rights groups and victim services carry out their intervention and prevention efforts.
Animal Control Officers (ACO) and Humane Law Enforcement (HLE) are contributing to a much-needed data set that will benefit all of society. By providing as much detail and information as possible, ACOs and HLE are largely responsible for the clearer picture we now have of animal cruelty and those who commit it.
The Prevalence of Animal Cruelty
An ACO's primary duty is to be out in the field, responding to reports of animal-related crime. In 2016, the Humane Society of Greater Rochester responded to more than 3,000 calls of animal-related crime, seized nearly 300 animals and arrested 22 offenders.
Every report requires the completion of a NIBRS form for crimes against animals. (So that means in 2016, the Humane Society of Greater Rochester filled out 3,000 of these forms.)
The NIBRS form consists of eight detailed sections.
- Administrative: incident number, date and time of the incident, investigating officer
- Offense: NIBRS offense code, offense status, weapons involved
- Property (animals no longer classified as property - does not apply)
- Offender: arrests made, date of birth, age, gender, race, resident status
- Victim: offense, victim type
- Complainant: information obtained from the complainant and/or witness(es)
- Narrative: any additional information not captured above
Case Management Software for Animal-Related Crime
With so many calls and so much detail to be captured, case management software is the best way to streamline your process so you can be sure that every step is tracked, and every deadline met.
Implementing case management software will minimize your daily administrative work. If you receive a call about suspicions of animal-related crime, the software allows you to open a case and assign it to an officer who's already out in the field.
An anonymous whistleblowing hotline, like the one built by i-Sight, offers a safer and simpler way for a person to report animal cruelty or animal-related crime. A witness, friend or confidante may be more likely to report their concerns if they can do so anonymously and without becoming involved.
i-Sight makes it easier for investigators to collaborate from anywhere. The employee who answered the phone can input preliminary details from the caller, then the investigating officer can upload photo evidence and capture more detail in real-time from his or her phone. The potential for collaboration means no piece of data will be left out or forgotten.
Using case management software helps ACOs and HLE conduct better, more efficient and effective investigations to keep animals safe and free from harm.