If you break it down to its bare essentials:
“Abusing an animal is a way for a human to find power/joy/fulfillment through the torture of a victim they know cannot defend itself.”
Now break down a human crime, say rape. If we substitute a few pronouns, it’s the SAME THING.
“Rape is a way for a human to find power/joy/fulfillment through the torture of a victim they know cannot defend themselves.”
Now try it with, say, domestic abuse such as child abuse or spousal abuse:
“Child abuse is a way for a human to find power/joy/fulfillment through the torture of a victim they know cannot defend themselves.”
Do you see the pattern here?
The line separating an animal abuser from someone capable of committing human abuse is much finer than most people care to consider. People abuse animals for the same reasons they abuse people. Some of them will stop with animals, but enough have been proven to continue on to commit violent crimes to people that it’s worth paying attention to.
Virtually every serious violent offender has a history of animal abuse in their past, and since there’s no way to know which animal abuser is going to continue on to commit violent human crimes, they should ALL be taken that seriously. FBI Supervisory Special Agent Allen Brantley was quoted as saying “Animal cruelty… is not a harmless venting of emotion in a healthy individual; this is a warning sign…” It should be looked at as exactly that. Its a clear indicator of psychological issues that can and often DO lead to more violent human crimes.
Dr. Randall Lockwood, who has a doctorate in psychology and is senior vice president for anti-cruelty initiatives and training for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, states “A kid who is abusive to a pet is quite often acting out violence directly experienced or witnessed in the home,” Lockwood said, adding that about one-third of children who are exposed to family violence will act out this violence, often against their own pets.
Others either abuse pets or threaten to abuse them as a way to control an individual.
“So much of animal cruelty… is really about power or control,” Lockwood said. Often, aggression starts with a real or perceived injustice. The person feels powerless and develops a warped sense of self-respect. Eventually they feel strong only by being able to dominate a person or animal.
Sometimes, young children and those with developmental disabilities who harm animals don’t understand what they’re doing, Lockwood said. And animal hoarding – the practice of keeping dozens of animals in deplorable conditions – often is a symptom of a greater mental illness, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Just as in situations of other types of abuse, a victim of abuse often becomes a perpetrator. According to Lockwood, when women abuse animals, they “almost always have a history of victimization themselves. That’s where a lot of that rage comes from.”
Those who abuse animals for no obvious reason, Lockwood said, are “budding psychopaths.” They have no empathy and only see the world as what it’s going to do for them.
History is full of high-profile examples of this connection:
- Patrick Sherrill, who killed 14 coworkers at a post office and then shot himself, had a history of stealing local pets and allowing his own dog to attack and mutilate them.
- Earl Kenneth Shriner, who raped, stabbed, and mutilated a 7-year-old boy, had been widely known in his neighborhood as the man who put firecrackers in dogs? rectums and strung up cats.
- Brenda Spencer, who opened fire at a San Diego school, killing two children and injuring nine others, had repeatedly abused cats and dogs, often by setting their tails on fire.
- Albert DeSalvo, the “Boston Strangler” who killed 13 women, trapped dogs and cats in orange crates and shot arrows through the boxes in his youth.
- Carroll Edward Cole, executed for five of the 35 murders of which he was accused, said his first act of violence as a child was to strangle a puppy.
- In 1987, three Missouri high school students were charged with the beating death of a classmate. They had histories of repeated acts of animal mutilation starting several years earlier. One confessed that he had killed so many cats he?d lost count. Two brothers who murdered their parents had previously told classmates that they had decapitated a cat.
- Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer had impaled dogs? heads, frogs, and cats on sticks.
More recently, high school killers such as 15-year-old Kip Kinkel in Springfield, Ore., and Luke Woodham, 16, in Pearl, Miss., tortured animals before embarking on shooting sprees. Columbine High School students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who shot and killed 12 classmates before turning their guns on themselves, bragged about mutilating animals to their friends.
As powerful a statement as the high-profile examples above make, they don’t even begin to scratch the surface of the whole truth behind the abuse connection. Learning more about the animal cruelty/interpersonal violence connection is vital for community members and law enforcement alike.
The whole picture
- In 88 percent of 57 New Jersey families being treated for child abuse, animals in the home had been abused.
- Of 23 British families with a history of animal neglect, 83 percent had been identified by experts as having children at risk of abuse or neglect.
- In one study of battered women, 57 percent of those with pets said their partners had harmed or killed the animals. One in four said that she stayed with the batterer because she feared leaving the pet behind.
Because the household pet is often used as a control device to keep the abused from seeking help, some shelters have developed programs to assist in these situations. Programs like Rancho Coastal Humane Society’s Animal Safehouse Program allows victims to leave their animals in foster care while they seek medical attention, counseling and help. For a national listing of Animal Safehouse/Safe Haven organizations, visit the HSUS Safe Haven Directory.
What can be done?
While animal abuse is an important sign of child abuse, the parent isn’t always the one harming the animal. Children who abuse animals may be repeating a lesson learned at home; like their parents, they are reacting to anger or frustration with violence. Their violence is directed at the only individual in the family more vulnerable than themselves: an animal. One expert says, “Children in violent homes are characterized by … frequently participating in pecking-order battering,” in which they may maim or kill an animal. Indeed, domestic violence is the most common background for childhood cruelty to animals.
Related Links (Off-site links open in a new window)
Cruelty Connection Cases
American Humane: The Link
NCPC: Screening Animal Cruelty Cases for Domestic Violence
Factors in the Assessment of Dangerousness in Perpetrators of Animal Cruelty
First Strike: The Connection Between Animal Cruelty and Human Violence
HSUS: Animal SafeHaven Directory
Society & Animals Forum: Articles on the Link
The Abuse of Animals and Domestic Violence
Battered Women’s Reports of Their Partners’ and Their Children’s Cruelty to Animals
Animal Welfare and Domestic ViolenceThe Latham Foundation for the Promotion of Humane Education
Animal Abuse and Human Abuse: Partners in Crime
Bibliography of Materials about Animal Abuse, Child Abuse and Domestic Violence
The petition to the EU (European Union)
That said, communities have good reason to be concerned about the whereabouts of animal abusers who often repeat their violent crimes against helpless animals, and often go on to victimize people as well.
Given it is proven that people who can commit crimes against animals rarely stop there and that they are very likely to harm other humans, especially children or other vulnerable people, we are calling on the European Union to place animal abusers on the same level as sex offenders and other criminals by listing them in an online register, complete with a range of personal information, a recent photograph, home addresses and places of employment.
This petition has been started on October 18, 2012 and has been submitted to the European Parliament for official registration at the same date.
You can using the widget below or directly at change.org and we thank you very much in advance for doing so.
Please read also:
Animal abuse – how to report