For the first time, the FBI has classified animal cruelty as a Group A felony, likening it to homicide, arson and assault.
There are four subgroups for reporting animal abusem including simple/gross neglect, intentional abuse/torture, organized abuse (such as dogfighting) and sexual abuse of an animal.
Previously listed as “other,” animal cruelty was hard to track, making it harder for researchers to get statistics about the abuse, authorities said.
Many criminals abuse animals before they abuse people, according to a 2015 podcast from the FBI. Serial killers Jeffrey Dahmer and Albert DeSalvo tortured and killed animals before murdering humans.
Data collected from the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) will be used to track animal abuse. The data for 2016 will be available to the public in 2017.
Since the reporting system is voluntary, it is vital for local law enforcement to report the statistics for data collection, authorities say.