As recently reported, the FBI will begin collecting statistics on animal cruelty crimes in its crime reporting databases, the Uniform Crime Report and National Incident-Based Reporting System. Previously, these crimes were collected along with other crimes, so no separate analysis of animal cruelty crimes was available.
According to the Animal Welfare Institute, “[t]he information on animal cruelty crimes that will become available through this reporting change will allow law enforcement agencies, policy makers, researchers, and others to better understand the factors associated with animal abuse, ascertain the characteristics of the perpetrators, and identify when and where such crimes occur, greatly benefiting the criminal justice community.”
Access to this information is available at FBI’s website.
This data may be useful to states, like New Jersey, considering collecting information about individuals convicted of animal cruelty crimes in an effort to prevent them from committing additional crimes against animals.
Previously discussed in several blogs, one such proposed bill, Moose’s Law, has resurfaced from the New Jersey Legislature with some long-recommended amendments.
One amendment removes civil liability for animal cruelty offenses as a disqualifying factor for employment or volunteering at an animal-related enterprise. The amendment now provides that owners or operators of an animal-related enterprise would only be prohibited from employing anyone convicted of a criminal animal cruelty offense.
However, additional amendments are needed to ensure that due process is afforded to offenders. For example, the bill continues to require a life-long ban on an individual’s employment working with animals, regardless of the nature of criminal offense. This is, in essense, a lifetime punishment, which may not be warranted in all cases.
It also remains unclear if the law, upon adoption, would be applied prospectively or would also be used to exclude from employment inidividuals previously convicted of criminal animal cruelty offenses. If applied retrospectively, this would violate due process provisions, since such punishment was not known to those individuals when facing such charges.
One of the most troubling provisions of the bill which was not amended, prohibits employment of individuals whose conduct outside the State would constitute a criminal animal cruelty offense under New Jersey law. While it is unknown how an employer, or anyone, would be able to identify such conduct outside New Jersey, if identifed and prohibited from employment in New Jersey, no due process of law would have been afforded to that individual.
Of course, no one wants animals to be hurt by anyone, including individuals with a history of such offenses. But, in addition to protecting animals, the law must provide for the constitutional rights of people.
Hopefully, the FBI’s database can be used to track criminal animal cruelty offenders, convicted in other states, to assist employers in New Jersey protect the animals in their care.