(NEWSER) – This year, for the first time, the FBI will track animal abuse the same way it tracks crimes such as homicide, arson, and assault. After years of lobbying, the bureau agreed in 2014 to make animal cruelty a Class A felony with its own category, and started tracking cases this year, the Washington Post reports.

Previously, animal cruelty crimes were reported to the FBI as "other." The change will allow animal rights advocates to easily see whether abuse is going up or down, and it could even alert authorities to criminals who might eventually turn to violent crime against people: The deputy executive director of the National Sheriffs' Association backed the change when he learned that many serial killers are animal abusers first. Collecting animal abuse data could help "flag" future violent offenders, as many as 70% of whom may have abused animals first, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

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