The Maneka Gandhi column: Animal cruelty is a top-tier federal crime in the US, what's stopping us from following suit?
Why has the FBI finally taken animal crime seriously? Because they have found what we all know, that young people who torture and kill animals are going to do the same to people.
By Maneka Gandhi
The police need to take animal abuse seriously. Every survey done by crime squads across the world shows that animal abuse is directly linked to domestic abuse and to violent crime. In January this year, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) declared that it has reclassified animal abuse as a “Group A” felony in its National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS).
This means that, in America, it will be a top-tier federal crime. In the past, animal abuse crimes have been listed under “Group B”, which includes writing bad checks and trespassing, in the category of “All Other Offenses”, which is an aggregate of minor crimes, making cruelty hard to find, hard to count and hard to track. Under the new guidelines, however, abuse against animals will be treated as a serious crime, such as arson, kidnapping and homicide.
The change will make it easier to track and quantify animal abuse crimes. This move will achieve three things: reduce animal abuse by citizens, make municipal police change their attitude towards animal crime offenders – which, as with most police forces, is lax and not taken seriously – and also make it possible to catch animal abusers who cross from state to state. This will mean stronger accountability.
The new animal cruelty category includes four categories: simple or gross neglect, deliberate abuse and torture, organised abuse (e.g. dog fighting) and sexual abuse against an animal.
The FBI has been collecting data for the last one year, from the National Sheriff’s Association and Animal Welfare Institute, of such offenders. Animal Cruelty statistics will be available publicly on their Uniform Crime Report from 2017 on their site. The FBI's annual crime report is the primary source of information on criminal trends in the United States. So including crimes against animals formally recognizes the seriousness of animal abuse crimes and their negative impact on the welfare of society. Local police departments across the country will now submit their animal crime statistics to the FBI.
Why has the FBI finally taken animal crime seriously? Because they have found what we all know, that young people who torture and kill animals are going to do the same to people if these tendencies are not checked. More than 80 percent of the people in jail for violent crimes started their careers by being vicious to animals. All serial killers fit into this category. The FBI now recognizes the importance of this data and the links between crimes against animals and crimes against humans. There is a link between animal crimes and domestic abuse, drug trafficking and other crimes. A new federal category for animal cruelty crimes will help root out those pet abusers before their behaviour worsens.
More than 18,000 city, college, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies participate in the FBI's crime-reporting program. The FBI's animal cruelty statistics will allow law enforcement agencies, policy makers, researchers and the public to better understand the factors associated with animal abuse and the characteristics of the offenders.
Unfortunately in India, animal crime is treated lightly because it has a Rs 50 penal provision attached to it. But this punishment and fine was made in 1960 when Rs 50 was one tenth of an army officer’s pay. In 1960, most animal crimes under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 were made cognizable. However, over the years, even though the nature of crimes has become far more ubiquitous and serious, anti-crime agencies treat them lightly.
Our second and most serious problem, however, is the fact that there is no National Register of crimes at all. This is something my Ministry has been repeatedly asking for: for sexual offenders, murderers, arsonists, kidnappers to begin with. If we could get that on the road, we could – and should – add animal abusers to it.
Here are a few of the crimes that need to be taken seriously:
1. People who rape animals. Recently, three boys were admitted to a Delhi hospital with sores on their private parts which they incurred while raping lambs who had died from the violence.
2. People who keep pet animals locked up the entire day. This is usually accompanied by starving them and making them turn vicious towards human beings.
3. People who indulge in vicious group abuse like dog fighting, cattle racing, Jallikattu where biting the bull and throwing it to the ground is an important part.
4. People who harass dog feeders, especially women dog feeders.
5. People who poison street animals or throw acid on them.
6. People who intentionally run over street animals.
7. People who put puppies/kittens into sacks and then throw them somewhere else.
8. People who go hunting for fun with guns and traps.
9. People who make their underage children (often as young as four years old) work in slaughterhouses.
10. People who film themselves hitting animals and then post it on the internet.
11. People who tie fireworks to animals.
12. People who set fire to forests.
13. Animal breeders who misuse and abuse their animals. This also applies to pet shop owners.
14. People who are cruel to animals in their animal-based industries: poultry, piggeries, dairies.
15. People who hoard animals. These are not criminals. They are very sick and need to be dealt with by psychiatrists.
16. People who test on animals without sanctions.
17. People who use animals for entertainment: circuses, for instance, have been found to poach animals and then sell them when they have been beaten and starved beyond repair. They also use kidnapped children and women and have been found to rape the women into submission and beat the children into performing dangerous acts.
Persons who choose to consistently release their aggression by harming defenceless animals are the lowest scum in society, and hopefully there is a special place in hell reserved for these individuals.
To join the animal welfare movement, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, www.peopleforanimalsindia.org
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