MAKE SURE YOUR ANIMAL CRUELTY DATA IS COUNTED
Hello Florida Animal Control and Welfare Agencies! As many of you will recall, in 2014 the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) agreed to accept and compile data on animal cruelty. This was a breakthrough since this information had never been included on any national crime data report.
Unfortunately, seven years later, very little data on animal cruelty is being captured or reflected on state or national reports. As your state association, the Florida Animal Control Association Board of Directors wants to help change that. We want your data and ours to be included in crime data reports.
Why is this important? Making sure that information regarding animal cruelty is reflected in these reports is important for many reasons. First, we know there is a Link between animal cruelty and other forms of violence including domestic violence. By having data on animal cruelty, we can get a clearer picture of how often animal abuse co-occurs with other forms of violence, do a deeper, more meaningful analysis of the data, and explore options for prevention and intervention.
Also, our organizations spend tremendous time and resources on animal cruelty cases and for that reason too, this data is important. Animal cruelty investigations is often a core function of an animal control or humane society organization and for our data to sit idle, does a disservice to the important work we do and the animals and communities we serve.
As it stands now, Delaware is the only state that reports all animal cruelty data to the FBI. This in addition to random counties throughout the country is all that makes up the national statistics on animal cruelty. Recent reports give the impression that animal cruelty does not occur often, especially in comparison to other forms of violence. We all know that isn’t the case.
What is the problem? So, why is data not getting to the FBI? Unfortunately, we are part of the reason. Please think for a minute about your data. Where does it go? How is it stored? What specific information about your animal cruelty cases do you capture? Do you share that information with your local Sheriff to be included in the report he/she submits to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement? If your data sits idly in a database or in a system, we are not doing our part to report.
The FACA Board acknowledges that animal control programs that operate under or as part of local law enforcement may very well already be reporting their animal cruelty data. Here is why. Any law enforcement agency in Florida can report their data to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and in turn that data is submitted to the FBI for inclusion in NIBRS. However, FDLE will not accept data directly from animal control agencies that are not part of a sworn law enforcement agency. This is the reason that developing a relationship with your local law enforcement entities to accept your data and include in their reports is so crucial.
Florida was under a mandate to have completed the transition from summary reporting to NIBRS by January 2021. Unfortunately, Florida did not meet that mandate and as of January 1, 2021, Florida is still using summary reporting.
Summary reporting only reflects the most severe crime at a particular location. For example, let’s say an abusive spouse breaks a restraining order and goes back home where he waits for his wife to return. When she does, he decides torturing the dog and making her watch is the best punishment for her going out with friends the night before. After he kills the dog, he kills his wife, then sets the house ablaze! The only crime shown on a summary report will be the homicide. Neither this heinous act of animal abuse nor the arson will be reported. So much crime data is completely missed using a summary report.
The National Incident Based Reporting System captures all crimes that are reported. In the same scenario mentioned above, the homicide, animal cruelty, and arson would all be reflected on the NIBRS report. NIBRS also captures information on perpetrator/victim demographics such as gender, age, race, etc. Having this information allows for a more comprehensive picture of crime in the United States beyond any report ever generated. There does not have to be an arrest or conviction, just a report for it to be reflected in the report.
What can you do to help?
Make sure you are capturing complete and accurate data on your animal cruelty complaints. Find out if your county/city law enforcement agencies (LEAs) report in a Florida Incident-Based Reporting System (FIBRS) format, which is the state equivalent of NIBRS, or is still using summary reporting. If they are not using FIBRS, ask them when they plan to make the transition and would they be willing to accept your data on animal cruelty.
In the NIBRS manual included on this site, you will find in Appendix C a template for a Memorandum of Understanding that can be entered into between your local Sheriff’s Department and your organization, assuming you are not part of a law enforcement agency. There may not be a need for an MOU and if not, that will save some time.
What information is needed?
To offer the best data, all cruelty investigations should include as much of the information that can be captured on the NIBRS Animal Cruelty Incident Report. This report can be found in the NIBRS manual as Appendix B.
The manual is an excellent guide to completing this report and explains the various fields in detail that you may not be familiar with. Having a collaborative and cooperation relationship with your local LEAs will be critical to completing these reports.
Ultimately, it is important for all of us to realize that data is a huge consideration when it comes to:
Prevention and interventions
FACA will continue to update this page as new information becomes available. If you have suggestions for how we can all ensure that our animal cruelty data is reported, please send suggestions to: Kim.Staton@osceola.org
Resources available now for download: