DENVER (CBS4) – A new bill cracking down on cruelty to animals could help prevent violence against people. While not all people who hurt animals go on to hurt people, Rep. Alex Valdez says it is well-established that some of the most violent criminals have been arrested for animal abuse.

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The FBI has identified animal cruelty as a warning sign for terrorists, and Valdez says 43 percent of school shooters have a history of animal abuse, yet many offenders aren’t flagged until it’s too late.

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“There is a link. It’s strong, and it’s something that we can take action on and prevent violence in the future.”

Rep. Alex Valdez (credit: CBS)

Valdez says animal cruelty cases should be seen as warning signs and opportunities for intervention. He’s introduced a bill that would encourage judges who hear animal cruelty cases to mandate anger management or mental health treatment as part of the sentence.

“As much as it is an animal bill, it is more a bill about preventing violence against people.”

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The bill also bars anyone convicted of misdemeanor animal cruelty from owning an animal for five years and anyone convicted of felony animal cruelty from owning an animal for 10 years.

Valdez says the connection between domestic violence and animal abuse is especially strong.

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“The family member being abused won’t leave because they don’t want to leave their animals with the abuser. There are so many ripple effects… when you look at the bill in it’s totality, the best part of it is that we’re going to try to help the people exhibiting these behaviors, try to get them the help they need not to become more violent in the future.”

It is difficult to predict when animal abuse will escalate, which is why Valdez says it should always be taken seriously. In New Jersey, a man’s family reported him for stabbing their dog and police found a bomb when they went to investigate.

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In Colorado, cases of violent offenders with animal cruelty histories range from the killer at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs to a teenage girl who plotted a Columbine-style attack in Highlands Ranch.

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Valdez’s bill will have its first hearing Thursday, and Colorado’s First Gentleman Marlon Reis is among those who will testify in favor of it.

Shaun Boyd