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Senate bill calls for tracking animal cruelty

Article

AVMA Animal Welfare Committee to review measure

Washington — New Senate legislation directs the FBI to list animal cruelty crimes as a separate category in the agency's crime data reporting system.

The goal of the Tracking Animal Cruelty Crimes Act of 2007, introduced by New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez on Dec. 11, is to give law enforcement new mandates to police animal cruelty cases and those convicted of crimes.

It comes as NFL quarterback Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months in prison for a much-publicized dogfighting conviction.

Lauded by activist groups such as the Humane Society of the United States, supporters consider S. 2439 an "anti-crime" measure designed to increase public safety. At press time, the American Veterinary Medical Association's Animal Welfare Committee was reviewing the bill to guide the group's stance, says Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, director of the AVMA Governmental Relations Division.

The bill directs the U.S. Attorney General to modify the FBI's crime- reporting systems, which include the Uniform Crime Reporting Program, the National Incident-Based Reporting System and the future Law Enforcement National Data Exchange, to list animal cruelty as a separate offense category that's highlighted in the agency's annual crime-statistics report.

According to Menendez's office, that would make it easier for law enforcement to identify trends in animal-cruelty crimes.

"Perhaps if there is any silver lining to the Michael Vick episode, it is that such a high-profile conviction for dogfighting has made everyone aware of the repulsiveness of animal cruelty and the severe consequences that await those who participate," Menendez says in a prepared statement. "While we have the momentum, we need to make sure that we establish policies that help law enforcement more effectively understand the scope of the problem and prevent offenders from going on to commit other violent crimes."

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