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Animal cruelty to be ‘A’ felony

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Karla Rendon
Editorial Director

The FBI will increase the consequences of violent crimes against animals by reclassifying such crimes as Group A felonies, FBI officials announced last month.

This means that animal abuse will be considered a serious crime against society and stricter penalties will be enforced.

The four categories for animal cruelty are simple or gross neglect, intentional abuse and torture, organized abuse and animal sexual abuse with local agencies tracking the offenses and reporting them to the FBI.

“It’s a positive thing that we now have 50 states where animal cruelty is recognized by the FBI,” said Beth Les, supervisor of animal services for the Inland Valley Humane Society.

The FBI defines animal cruelty as, “Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly taking an action that mistreats or kills any animal without just cause, such as torturing, tormenting, mutilation, maiming, poisoning, or abandonment.”

Recently a dog adopted through the Basset Hound Rescue of Southern California was lit on fire by a teenager, resulting in the death of the dog and a 15-month sentence in state prison for the offender, according to a police report.

After that incident, the rescue supported stricter penalties for animal cruelty, said Melissa Ruthenbeck-Chiaramonte, president of the Basset Hound Rescue of Southern California. Because of its former classification as “other,” previous animal abuse crimes were difficult to find and hard to count and keep track of.

“The written laws weren’t as harsh as we thought it should be fair,” Ruthenbeck-Chiaramonte said.

“I think the law would raise awareness about animal cruelty and help police know who it is (committing the offenses) and have it taken more seriously,” she added.

Due to the time and money to update law enforcement and FBI databases, no data will be collected until January 2016 said John Thompson, interim executive director of the National Sheriffs’ Association in a recent interview with the Associated Press.

“Any time the laws like that get strict, it’s a positive thing for the city because it allows us to enforce the laws and because the laws are so strict, the crime is less likely to happen,” said La Verne Police Department Sgt. Sam Gonzalez.

Pending animal cruelty statistics will allow counselors and police to work with children, who show early signs of mistreating animals in hopes of preventing the children in question from performing violent acts on people.

“I think it’s a great, positive step forward to recognizing animal abuse leads into violence and abuse,” Les said.

“If they treat an animal like that, most likely the household is being treated like that,” Les said.

“If they’re abusing animals they’re abusing people.” “I’m really excited that animal cruelty is being recognized as something that is an offense as someone’s rights. It may not be a person, but it is still an act of abuse,” she added.

Karla Rendon can be reached at karla.rendon@laverne.edu.

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