Cruelty Stats Bill Draws Mixed Reaction

A measure aimed at collecting and making animal cruelty crime data public is drawing praise from animal welfare advocates as a means to raise awareness of animal cruelty crime.

"For one thing, it would legitimize the data, so law enforcement wouldn't have to take a rescue's word for it when it comes to the volume of crimes," said Sara Isaacson, president of the Heart of the Redwoods Horse Rescue in California. "Also, keeping data in one place is better than having nonprofits trying to keep their own databases."

Introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee by Judiciary Committee Chairman U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) last month, HR 6597, "The Animal Cruelty Statistics Act of 2008," would require the U.S. Attorney General to collect data on all animal cruelty crimes and to make that data available to the public through the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).

But Joseph Michael, deputy states attorney for Washington County, Md., is not convinced the legislation represents a new crime fighting tool.

The BJS system collects data to track and analyze crime trends, but these statistics do not contain specific information about offenders, Michael said. These data are collected when offenders are fingerprinted upon arrest or conviction and stored in the FBI's National Crime Information Center database.

"A better idea would be mandatory fingerprinting of people arrested or convicted for animal cruelty crimes," he said.

Michael also worries the measure will burden local animal control authorities with the task and cost of data collection.

"My fear is that this will be an unfunded mandate," he said.

Still, Kathy Schwartz-Howe, director of Days End Horse Rescue in Maryland, sees value in the measure. "I think the statistics will make the animal abuse issue real for people," she said.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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