In recent years, there’s been a step-by-step fortifying of the legal framework against cruelty, with felony-level penalties adopted for dogfighting, cockfighting, and other extreme acts of violence against animals. In addition, every day there are more and more interventions against cruelty in dozens of communities nationwide, as police and sheriffs and animal control personnel raid and bust up animal fighting rings, puppy mill operations, and other dens of abuse. The changes in the law, and the more serious-minded enforcement of those laws, marks a sea change in our attitudes toward animals and our recognition of human responsibility to them. Increasingly, we’re seeing concern for animals institutionalized within a broader range of entities and organizations and agencies responsible for upholding and strengthening our laws and their enforcement.
One of the entities helping to lead the charge against cruelty is the National Sheriffs Association, which recently partnered with The HSUS, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Fraternal Order of Police, and hundreds of local law enforcement agencies in convincing Congress to make it a federal crime to attend or bring a child to an animal fighting spectacle. President Obama signed that legislation, as part of the massive 2014 Farm Bill, on Friday – the fourth major upgrade of the federal animal fighting law since 2002.
Just weeks ago, the National Sheriffs Association, founded in 1940 and representing thousands of sheriffs, deputies, and other law enforcement, helped create the National Coalition on Violence Against Animals (NCVAA). This new group pulls together leading sheriffs and police, prosecutors, judges, mental health specialists, domestic violence professionals, and animal protection advocates to develop and promote policies, strategies, guidelines, and programs that will reduce violence against animals and its harmful effects on children, families, and society.
The association has also submitted a proposal to the FBI to add animal cruelty as a separate category to the Uniform Crime Reporting Program. The collection and analysis of animal cruelty offenses by the FBI will encourage law enforcement to pursue animal cruelty crimes and also provide an important tool to better target police activity and interventions.
It’s now widely recognized that cruelty begets more of it, with the victims one day being animals and on other days children and other vulnerable parties. A 2001-2004 study by the Chicago Police Department “revealed a startling propensity for offenders charged with crimes against animals to commit other violent offenses toward human victims.” Of those arrested for animal crimes, 65% had been arrested for battery against another person.
If we want to protect our communities, we have to prevent cruelty to animals and, when it occurs, crack down on it, and arrest or treat those who perpetrate it. Cruelty is corrosive. It must be eradicated if we are to have a civil society.
The National Sheriffs Association and so many other professional law enforcement organizations are partners in our campaign to root out cruelty in all of its forms. They are helping set the tone in our relationship with animals and the ongoing campaign to protect them. That’s a remarkable development for animals and the whole of society.