The connection between violence against animals and humans was not well known or acknowledged in Norway before 2015. In 2015 politicians launched a pioneer project with a small group of police in one designated police district, called the “animal crime unit”. This unit should focus on how to handle animal abuse and violence cases, and how to best work together with the Food Agency (the agency also responsible for controlling animal welfare). In addition a nation wide agreement of cooperation between the Food Agency and the police was to be initiated, and the special police department for environmental crimes should also specialize in animal crime in order to help improve competence within the police.
Leading up to the breakthrough in 2015, NOAH carried out a campaign for “animal police” in Norway, pointing out that nearly no crimes against animals were followed up by the police, and when violence against animals did receive a reaction, the punishment for even grave offences were seldom above a small fine or a couple of weeks/months of prison (often on probation). In contrast, destruction of non-living property (fence, bike etc) was often given more severe punishments. This was the case even though the Animal Welfare Law opens for one year sentence for first time offence, and 3 years sentence for repeated or grave offences.
NOAHs campaign gained remarkable public support, and also researchers started to show more interest. NOAH arranged a demonstration with relevant researchers holding speeches in front of parliament. Following this, the political party FrP arranged a seminar with many of the same speakers inside parliament. After extensive political work, there was finally a political majority for introducing a unit of animal police in Norway, and thus recognizing the need for taking crimes against animals more seriously. Realizing the link between violence against animals and violence against humans was an important part of this process.
The police themselves also recognized that this type of crime had not been dealt with in a satisfactory way earlier. Following the start of the project, the police and the Food Agency arrange yearly seminars to improve the quality of their work. The Food Agency itself has also gradually recognized the need for them to involve the police in serious animal abuse cases to a greater extent. The number of animal abuse cases that has been met with a legal reaction has increased, and the level of punishment has increased for serious cases. Nevertheless the maximum punishment of three years has not yet been used in any case,despite the fact that there has been several grave cases involving severe suffering for a significant number of animals.
In the years after 2015 the public awareness of the importance to file a complaint to the police in cases of animal abuse, has increased. Politicians realized that more animal crime units were needed, and per 2018 five units are operative or in the process of being so. In February 2018 a new coalition government issued at platform in which they promised to establish animal crime units in all police districts of Norway.
In recent years researchers in the fields of violence and criminologyhave gained interest for the link between violence against humans and violence against animals. Also, there is a growing interest in this field from the educational institutions both educating police officers and veterinarians. There is still much work to be done in the area of cooperation between agencies dealing with human victims and the agency dealing with animal abuse. At the moment (2018) there are no lines of cooperation enabling discovery of human victims in a situation of animal abuse, or animal victims in a situation of domestic violence. However, the first established animal crime unit has reported that their work with animal abuse has enabled them also to discover cases where human victims are in need of help.
Veterinarian and leader of NOAH - for animal rights