LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The FBI is now tracking crimes against animals the same way as other felonies.

"To most people, their pets are just like family no different than their daughters or sons," said John Thompson, Deputy Executive Director of the National Sheriffs’ Association.

But to others, dogs and cats are punching bags; defenseless animals that are abused, neglected, even stabbed and shot.

"So if they're likely to shoot guns like that, what are they going do to a human being, you know?" said Louisville Metro Animal Services spokeswoman Leslie Hawk.

Hawk says LMAS makes about 16,000 runs a year and a majority of those cases turn out to be some form of animal cruelty.

The shelter has welcomed in several dogs recently, like Yankee, that have been shot. Hawks says the change the FBI is making is a win for animal rights and protecting humans.

"They were shooting dogs in people's backyards,” said Hawk regarding Yankee’s case. “So what happens if somebody opened the back door and walked out? Would they have hit a human? Would they have hit a child? That's a big deal."

On Jan. 1, 2016, the FBI started tracking animal cruelty as a “Crime against Society.” It’ll include instances of neglect, abuse and torture, organized abuse (dog fighting and cock fighting) and sexual abuse.

Some in law enforcement say those actions are precursors to hurting people and sometimes go hand in hand with domestic violence and child abuse.

"People like Ted Bundy and Dahmer and the list just goes on and on,” said Thompson. “You know, the kids who shot up the school in Pearl, Mississippi and Columbine. I mean all of them have documented proof of abusing animals prior to moving on to humans."

The National Sheriffs' Association pushed the FBI to include the stats.

They will show how often animal cruelty happens, where, and whether it's on the rise. The new data will help agencies better plan prevention efforts and help experts analyze the patterns of animal abusers.

Their hope is to protect future pets like Yankee and people after him who might be the next victim.

A first look at the new animal cruelty statistics will not be available until next year and it will likely take 3-5 years before this data will actually show helpful patterns.

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