National Sheriffs’ Association Working towards Justice for Animal Victims

Great news for animals! This month marked significant milestones in the ways law enforcement is tackling animal crimes, spearheaded by the extraordinary leadership of National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) Deputy Executive Director John W. Thompson.

NSA represents thousands of sheriffs and other law enforcement professionals throughout the country. The organization provides police education and training, and creates networks of communication between local, state, and federal criminal justice officials. The Animal Legal Defense Fund regularly collaborates with NSA, and is an official partner of NSA’s National Law Enforcement Center on Animal Abuse; our Senior Attorney Diane Balkin, a former prosecutor, also serves on the NSA’s Dog Encounters Advisory Board.

Last week, NSA announced the creation of its first-ever Animal Cruelty Committee. According to NSA President John Layton, this committee will “look into the needs and concerns of our sheriffs across the country in handling this issue,” and will create a “unified voice” for law enforcement to address animal cruelty. The announcement came just days after the Department of Homeland Security, the National Counterterrorism Center and the FBI published the First Responder’s Toolbox, advising that animal cruelty, particularly when premeditated, may be a warning behavior for terrorism and other violent acts. This is an important step in addressing community safety, and one that NSA has been advocating for behind the scenes.

For years, NSA has been working to improve the availability of information regarding animal cruelty crimes, knowing firsthand the impact of disseminating the right information to officers in the field. In a landmark move, the organization successfully lobbied the FBI to begin tracking animal cruelty crimes in 2016, citing the link between animal cruelty and other violent crimes. The FBI now has a separate category for animal cruelty crimes in its annual Unified Crime Report, allowing officials to track and analyze national animal cruelty data for the first time.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund applauds the National Sheriffs’ Association, and in particular John Thompson, for their longtime dedication to animal protection, and for continuing to push the boundaries on how law enforcement views and responds to crimes against animals.