A win for pets: FBI now tracks animal cruelty cases in Kansas, Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - It's a video that's been viewed nearly 5,000,000 times; a puppy, so badly abused by someone that he screams in fear when rescuers try to pet him.

While the video emerged out of Romania, cases of severe abuse and neglect happen every day in Kansas City.

"They have been neglected, they're left outside, they're skin and bones, they're emaciated; we don't know if we can bring them back," explained Rachel Hodgson with the Great Plains SPCA . "[Sometimes] it's a dog that was beaten, and it comes in with open wounds, with a shattered leg that was never repaired so it healed not quite right and it might not be able to walk again."

That's why the Great Plains SPCA and animal welfare organizations in Kansas, Missouri and across the nation are applauding a new initiative that allows police and sheriff’s departments to report cases of animal abuse directly to the FBI's National Incident Based Reporting System , the same system that tracks violent crimes like rape and murder.

"This will be better for all of society - both humans and pets - because it will help investigators with cases against folks who are engaging in animal abuse," said Hodgson. "It will also help collect data and information to people who are also committing crime, violent crimes, against humans."

Here's why: a study conducted by the Chicago Police Department found that 65 percent of the people police arrested for crimes against animals had also been arrested for harming people. And in another separate study, nearly half of murders behind bars admitted to abusing animals during their teen and young adult years before moving on and hurting humans.

That's why local law enforcement agencies are linking up with the FBI to better track cases of animal abuse.

"Everywhere you look you can see that people who have been involved in these violent crimes against people have a past of animal abuse," said John Thompson with the National Sheriff's Association , one of the organizations that urged the FBI to begin keeping count. "That has been over looked for some time even though animal advocacy groups have been saying it. It just had not really come up to the forefront. With the FBI now collecting data on these crimes, this will help us a lot better to understand them and deal with them."

Local investigators will upload each cruelty case to the database. The cases will be divided into four categories: animal neglect, torture, organized abuse, like dog fighting rings, and animal sex abuse.

These changes in reporting do not make cases of animal abuse felonies. Instead, it simply finds a way to better track them and prevent them.

While the new reporting system went into effect Jan. 1, most of the metro law enforcement agencies 41 Action News spoke to have little to no information about this new way of reporting.

That's something the National Sheriffs Association said it's working to correct.

"It'll take several years for this data to really become useful," said Thompson. "As the FBI improves on the reporting and as more law enforcement become involved in the reporting, it will, over the course of the next three, four, five years, that data will become very important."

For not just pets in harms way, but also people.

Data collection begins this year. Agencies can evaluate trends starting in 2017.

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Terra Hall can be reached at terra.hall@kshb.com .

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