Justice Department Examines Link Between Animal Cruelty and Public Safety

By Susan Jones | May 1, 2013 | 7:21 AM EDT

An animal shelter near Los Angeles (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - In the past six years, the U.S. Justice Department says it has charged at least 190 people with animal cruelty, which can be a predictor of violence against people.

On Tuesday, in a "first of its kind" event, the Justice Department hosted a "listening session on the intersection between animal cruelty and public safety."

"Both in scale and scope, this conversation was the first of its kind in the department," the Justice Department blogged. "It is part of a broader dialogue that we will continue to have about preventing animal cruelty and better understanding its intersection with interpersonal violence and organized crime."

The Justice Department says in some child abuse and domestic violence cases, the batterers control their victims by threatening to killing or harming the victim's pet. And research suggests that acts of animal cruelty committed by young people may predict violent behavior against people in the future.

"Intervening to address animal cruelty may be key to changing patterns of conduct for positive long-term effects," the blog says.

The Justice Department says it has firsthand knowledge that certain forms of animal cruelty, such as dog-fighting and cock-fighting, may be part of organized crime rackets that not only harm animals but also may attract other criminal activities, including drug trafficking, unlawful possession of firearms, illegal gambling, stolen vehicles, property offenses, and child endangerment.

"We still have more to explore and learn about these connections, and our Office of Justice Programs’ Animal Cruelty Working Group has been working to do just that," the blog said.

Attending the animal cruelty listening session were Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West and Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary Lou Leary, along with
federal and state prosecutors, forensic scientists and veterinarians, judges, law enforcement officers, and representatives from the elder abuse, domestic violence, children services and animal welfare fields.