SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
The FBI is now tracking animal abuse the way it tracks arson or assault. This may help save more animals from harm. But research has also shown that animal abuse is often a precursor to other acts of violence. And tracking acts of violence against animals may help law enforcement intervene before that develops into violence against people. John Thompson is deputy executive director of the National Sheriff's Association and has been instrumental in moving this idea forward. He's in our studios. Sheriff Thompson, thanks so much for being with us.
JOHN THOMPSON: Good morning.
SIMON: So how does this tracking work?
THOMPSON: In the past, if, let's say an incident happened here in D.C. for animal abuse, it would just - that data would get thrown into this all other category.
THOMPSON: So there's really no way to track it. But now that - if there's animal abuse here in D.C., for example, they will now track the incidents and the data elements, which will then give good data for the police chief to say, wow, I've got a really big problem with animal abuse which is affecting gangs, which is affecting domestic violence and other interpersonal violence. Then that - the police chief could set up a special unit. So it's data that gives that police chief and the sheriff valuable information to help them set up the way they police their community.
SIMON: Well, and how would that work? You were a police chief in Mount Rainier, Md. I mean, it's one thing to have the data, but...
THOMPSON: Well, let's say you have a specific area where we're having a lot of dogs - they're finding dogs that are mutilated or something in one specific area. That's a good indication we maybe have a dogfighting gang or a dogfighting incident in that area. So now we can focus more law enforcement in that area to get it where in the past maybe we didn't do that.
SIMON: And there is a correlation between dogfighting rings and other crimes, perhaps?
THOMPSON: Oh, my God, yes. You know, if you've got dogfighting and gambling, you got just about any type of crime that goes with it. It - and that's what people are more aware of.
SIMON: What is the line, as research has established it, between people who abuse animals and violence against other human beings?
THOMPSON: Well, the research is very clear. And it's been there for a long time, as I said earlier. Law enforcement just hasn't got it yet, even though some have. Some agencies do a very good job. It's growing. If you look back at Son of Sam and Dahmer and...
SIMON: Jeffrey Dahmer in Milwaukee.
THOMPSON: Right and Ted Bundy in Florida. I mean, if you look at the serial killers, the majority of them that abused animals prior to turning on humans - and even one admitted, I did it to see how the animal would die before I killed a human. It's just - it's amazing. School shooters, Pearl, Miss., and Columbine, they all abused animals and killed animals prior to their shooting spree. So it's - the data's there and it's not just guesswork. It's actual documented data.
SIMON: You've been a law enforcement professional. Are there people who say the last thing I need is more paperwork, more data?
THOMPSON: Yeah, here's the thing. Law enforcement really hasn't grasped this problem yet. If you look back in the early '70s when domestic violence came up and how the laws changed and then law enforcement would go, say, well, if the woman's getting beat, why she won't leave the house? Well, we didn't understand. We'd understand the dynamics of domestic violence, and as that whole thing changed, it got better. And if you look at animal abuse right now, it's - can follow the same timeline. You can always - bet you it's within years that it's going to be the same timeline. You have to get - in order for this problem to be solved, you're going to have to get the legislators to create the laws, you're going to have to get law enforcement to enforce the laws, you're going to have to get prosecutors to prosecute and judges to convict.
SIMON: John Thompson of the National Sheriff's Association, thanks so much for being with us.
THOMPSON: OK, thank you. Appreciate it.
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