There is growing recognition of the importance of taking animal abuse seriously. Research on the relationship between animal abuse and other violence has resulted in law enforcement recognizing animal abuse as a “crime against society.” As a result, starting in 2016, the FBI National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) will begin collecting information on reports of animal abuse as well as arrests and convictions. NIBRS collects detailed crime statistics that law enforcement agencies nationwide provide to the FBI. The information is critical to informing law enforcement policy and practice.
Despite this important step forward, most animal abuse cases are charged as misdemeanors. There are few alternatives to hold perpetrators accountable and reduce the likelihood that they will repeat the behavior. Most people who have abused/neglected animals receive nothing more than a small fine. The result is a gap in meaningful alternatives for animal cruelty cases.
In order to address this gap, ASI has developed diversion programs for misdemeanor animal abuse offenders. Diversion programs offer a viable option to address this gap and provide early intervention, reduce cruelty to animals and humans, and reduce recidivism.
ASI offers three levels of diversion based on the severity of the offense:
- Level I–CARE (Companion Animal Responsibility and Care): Minimum standards of care and knowledge of companion animals’ basic needs
- Level II–BARK (Behavior, Accountability, Responsibility, and Knowledge): Focused on accountability and factors that motivated the abuse or neglect, including attitudes, beliefs, and other risk factors
- Level III–AniCare: One-on-one psychological intervention focusing on animal abuse and co-occurring issues such as substance abuse, domestic violence, and child abuse
Diversion Program Goals
Short-term goals include increasing accountability, increasing knowledge of animal care and well-being, changing attitudes and beliefs that support animal abuse, and improving self-management and interpersonal skills.
Medium-term goals include improving behavior (specifically improving the care of animals) and promoting healthy, positive relationships with animals.
The long-term goal is decreasing recidivism.
How Does Diversion Work?
- Assignment to diversion program at judges’ discretion based on severity, background, and other relevant factors
- Participants who complete program may have misdemeanor charges dismissed and/or fines reduced
- Participants may be required to complete the program in lieu of jail time (or reduction of jail time)
Following an individual’s completion of any of the diversion programs, the Court will receive a report, including information on attendance, level of participation, and a Transfer of Learning Assessment (includes open-ended questions and pre-post quantitative measures to assess knowledge of and attitudes toward animals).