On Day Of Michael Vick's Sentencing, Legislation Introduced In US Senate For Better Tracking Of Animal Cruelty Crimes

On Day Of Michael Vick's Sentencing, Legislation Introduced In US Senate For Better Tracking Of Animal Cruelty Crimes

Sen. Menendez's bill would add animal cruelty crimes to nationwide crime reporting systems

Washington - As NFL quarterback Michael Vick was sentenced today to 23 months in prison for his dogfighting conviction, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) introduced legislation to aid the battle against animal cruelty. The Tracking Animal Cruelty Crimes Act would direct the Federal Bureau of Investigation to include animal cruelty crimes in its annual crime report - they are not currently included in the report, making it difficult for law enforcement, policy makers and experts to understand overall patterns or trends in animal cruelty crimes.

"Perhaps if there is any silver lining to the Michael Vick episode, it is that such a high-profile conviction for dogfighting has made everyone aware of the repulsiveness of animal cruelty and the severe consequences that await those who participate," said Senator Menendez. "While we have the momentum, we need to make sure that we establish policies that help law enforcement more effectively understand the scope of the problem and prevent offenders from going on to commit other violent crimes. The patterns of animal cruelty crimes should be tracked along with other violent crimes, and that is what we are trying to establish.

"This repulsive blood-sport of dogfighting is a truly national problem - last year in my home state of New Jersey, officials found a dog ring in a bunker 11-feet underground. That was during a drug raid, showing how interconnected animal cruelty can be with illegal gambling, drugs, and violence."

"Having the ability to track animal cruelty cases anywhere in the country is a long overdue step that would not only help animals, but would also give law enforcement agencies the tools they need to prevent violent offenders from escalating their terrible behavior," said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of The Humane Society of the United States. "We are grateful to Senator Menendez for introducing this important anti-crime bill, for the sake of animals, and for public safety and security in our communities."

"We strongly support creating a separate category for animal cruelty in the FBI's National Incident-Based Reporting System," said Allie Phillips, director of public policy for the American Humane Association. "Research has shown that animal cruelty is closely linked to other forms of societal violence. We are thrilled that Senator Menendez has introduced this important legislation. It will finally enable local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to collect national statistics on yearly crime rates, prevent recurrence of animal cruelty, and address its connection to other societal crimes."

Involvement in dogfighting and other animal cruelty crimes has proven to be a precursor to other violent crimes and tends to have a strong connection to gang and other criminal activity. The legislation gives law enforcement a critical tool for combating animal cruelty and preventing violent crime by adding animal cruelty crimes to the Uniform Crime Reporting Program. Specifically, it would:

· Direct the Attorney General in consultation with the FBI to add animal cruelty crimes to the Uniform Crime Reporting Program, National Incident Based Reporting System, and Law Enforcement National Data-Exchange Program.

· Establish a twelve month window for implementation from the date of enactment.

Studies has shown that people who had been prosecuted for animal abuse had a strong propensity to commit a violent crime, and a report by the Chicago Police Department found that, in a 3 year period, 59 percent of those people brought in for crimes against animals were self-admitted or factually established gang members.

Dogfighting has become a lucrative enterprise and cruel pastime for criminal gangs across America, with "champion" dogs selling for as much as $25,000 on the black market, and bets on a single fight exceeding $100,000.

Animal cruelty crimes are not assigned a category by the FBI in its annual crime statistics report, making the crimes impossible to disaggregate and study. With the information gathered by accepting animal cruelty as a separate category, officials can track criminal activity, monitor trends, allocate resources more efficiently, and ultimately stop these criminals before they commit worse crimes.

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