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Peters Announces Bipartisan Legislation to Study Link Between Animal Cruelty and Future Gun Violence

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) today announced introduction of the bipartisan Animal Violence Exposes Real Threat of (AVERT) Future Violence Act of 2022with U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC). The legislation is a commonsense step towards understanding and responding to the link between animal cruelty and interpersonal violence. Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (MA-5).

“For far too long, Americans have grappled with an epidemic of gun violence that has taken lives, and shattered families and communities in Michigan and across the country,” said Senator Peters. “We must continue to come together to find commonsense actions we can take to protect our communities and save lives – including the understanding of behavioral patterns like how a history of animal abuse can lead to future violence.”

“From Columbine to Parkland to Buffalo to Uvalde, many perpetrators of mass gun violence have a history of animal abuse. Better understanding this pattern of behavior will help us save lives,” said Assistant Speaker Clark. “This is a crucial step in our work to end America’s epidemic of gun violence and make our schools, streets, and communities safer.” 

Research shows that individuals who commit animal abuse are five times more likely to commit crimes than non-animal abusers. On average, 70% of convicted animal abusers will commit another crime within ten years, and nearly 40% of those follow-on crimes will be violent. This link between animal abuse and future criminality is so strong that in 2016 the FBI amended the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) to start collecting data on animal abuse. The perpetrators of mass shootings in Columbine, Colorado, Parkland, Florida, Buffalo, New York, Uvalde, Texas – and in Oxford, Michigan – were all linked to a history of animal cruelty. 

The AVERT Future Violence Act ensures that animal abuse is treated with urgency as a broader community issue and provides lawmakers with concrete policy recommendations to develop more effective intervention and diversion strategies for animal cruelty offenders to reduce the likelihood of future violence occurring in our communities. Specifically, it calls for:

  • The commission of a definitive study within the Department of Justice to assess the link between acts of animal cruelty and future violence against others; and

  • Authorization of a $2 million annual grant program to support mental health experts, law enforcement, and animal welfare organizations in their efforts to stop animal cruelty and rehabilitate offenders. 

The legislation is endorsed by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Animal Welfare Institute, Humane Society Legislative Fund, National Sheriffs’ Association, National LINK Coalition, NOVA (National Organization for Victim Assistance), Community Justice Action Fund, American Psychological Association, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Small & Rural Law Enforcement Executives Association, SAF-T (Sheltering Animals and Families Together) Program, and the PAWS Coalition (Human Animal Bond Research Institute; Nestlé Purina; Red Rover; Noah’s Animal House; Urban Resource Institute; Pet Partners).