FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --Animal abusers are under the microscope as the connection to human violence grows stronger.
The FBI is taking steps to monitor crimes against animals, collecting a new database of animal abusers. "They'll be able to track whether these abuses have occurred or have resulted in worse crimes later on," said Fresno County animal abuse prosecutor Lynette Gonzales.
New research shows a strong connection between animal abuse and domestic violence, so this is what the database is meant to prevent: The scary story of a Fresno County man who hurt a dog, then attacked a woman before they could get him in court for animal cruelty.
Princess is a survivor. After a neighbor reported a man abusing a dog, a humane office found the pit bull tied tightly to furniture in a hot garage. X-rays showed a skull fracture and other injuries.
Prosecutors charged Tyrell Harris with animal cruelty. He'll go to prison for up to 32 months for the crime when he's punished next week, and he'll be among the first people entered into the new FBI database of animal abusers. But before he ever showed up in court, he also attacked a woman. "Why this is so important is because of the link between the two," Gonzales said. "When animals are being abused, people are at risk. When people are being abused, animals are at risk."
Gonzales says Harris' case is all too common. A new study shows a majority of animal abusers will also attack their families. And psychologists say the people who attack animals are often just practicing for even worse attacks. "Typically, their primary goal is to get to a human, but it's easier to get to an animal and there are lower penalties for harming an animal," said forensic psychologist Dr. Susan Napolitano.
The database will separate animal abusers into four different categories -- ranked by how severe the crime was. So Refugio Alvarez, who left his tick-infested dog dangling in the back of his pickup truck, wouldn't be considered as much of a danger as Harris. But the registry gives police an idea of who may be prone to escalating violence. "You can't decide you know somebody because of one act or several acts that they've committed, but it kicks into the matrix of the risk factor," said Dr. Napolitano.
The FBI database won't change local or state laws about animal cruelty, or make it easier to prosecute abusers. But animal lovers say it's a start.