In a partnership with the National Sheriffs' Association and the Animal Welfare Institute, animal cruelty crimes will now have their own organized category within the FBI's public collection of national crime statistics. The database includes information like age, criminal history, and location. Previously animal abuse fell into an "other crimes" category which includes minor offenses like spitting.
According to Mary Lou Randour at the Animal Welfare Institute, this change sends a strong message that animal abuse is an important issue.
NIBRS currently helps law enforcement track hot spots of burglary and gang violence, so now they'll be able to look for patterns of animal abuse as well. Animal rights organizations have also expressed that they'ill be able to better allocate their resources based on the new data.
Frankly this change should have been made a long time ago, but better late than never. The addition to the database adds to the growing trend in taking cruelty seriously through the the first state animal abuser registry and prosecuting pet related crimes as felonies. I hope to see even more developments in this area over the next few years.