The FBI is more serious than ever about tracking those who intentionally hurt innocent animals. The bureau has started tracking animal cruelty, just like it tracks homicides and assault.
The bureau started collecting the data January 1 from participating law enforcement agencies through its National Incident Based Reporting System. Not only will this protect animals, but psychologists say it could help prevent future crimes against people.
"If you harm an animal, it is something you can see and document pretty well so I think that's something that makes sense," says Dr. Kate Nooner, a professor at UNCW and licensed clinical psychologist.
She says the new policy isn't just good for the well being of dogs and cats, but it could also help police take a bite out of human crime.
"If you look back on people who commit violent crimes and look at their history with animals, there is a good amount of animal abuse," she says.
Dr. Nooner says there is a link between hurting animals and hurting people and researchers have found that it starts early on in life.
"They talk about a graduation hypothesis where kids who commit crimes against animals then go up and commit violent crime as an adult," she says.
Adults like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer and the "son of sam" killer David Berkowitz are all serial killers the FBI cites as examples of this link. Dr. Nooner warns that not everyone falls into that category.
"Most of the animal abuse, people who do it, don't end up committing violent crime so it's not like it's a one to one link," she says.
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