In January 2016, the National Incident-based Reporting System, or NIBRS, began tracking instances of animal cruelty. The database monitors incidents such as gross neglect, torture and sexual abuse. Previously, instances of animal cruelty were classified under all other crimes in the FBI's "Crime in the United States" report. There are several reasons why the decision was made to keep tabs on animal abuse in the same way arson, burglary and other felonies are tracked.
First, authorities are trying to get a more complete view of animal cruelty in the United States. Second, it is believed that crimes against animals could be a precursor to other serious offenses. By keeping track of animal abuse cases, it may be possible to build a case for the link between animal abuse and violent crimes against people.
For instance, past data indicates that those who harm animals may be more likely to engage in domestic or child abuse. While results from the 2016 database will be revealed in 2017, it may take three to five years before any meaningful patterns are discerned. Currently, about 31 percent of the country is represented in the NBIRS database, but that number is expected to rise in the coming years. Specifically, the Washington, D.C., and Chicago police departments are expected to opt in within two years.
If an individual is charged with a felony, he or she may wish to talk to a legal professional. An attorney may be able to create a defense against the charge in an effort to result in an acquittal. Defenses may include casting doubt on witness testimony or physical evidence gathered against an individual. It may also be possible to ask that evidence be sealed or otherwise ruled inadmissible at trial.