Animal Cruelty and Human
A documented connection
The Humane Society of the United
Is there a connection between animal abuse and criminal
A number of studies have drawn links between the abuse of
animals and violence against people. A 2001-2004 study by the Chicago Police
Department "revealed a startling propensity for offenders charged with
crimes against animals to commit other violent offenses toward human
victims." Of those arrested for animal crimes, 65% had been arrested for
battery against another person.[i]
Of 36 convicted multiple murderers questioned in one study, 46% admitted
committing acts of animal torture as adolescents.[ii]
And of seven school shootings that took place across the country between
1997 and 2001, all involved boys who had previously committed acts of animal
How does animal abuse relate to domestic abuse?
abuse is one of four predictors of domestic partner violence, according to a
six-year "gold standard" study conducted in 11 metropolitan cities.[iii]
In both domestic violence and child-abuse situations, abusers may manipulate
and control their human victims through threatened or actual violence
against family pets. Researchers have found that between 71% and 83% of
women entering domestic violence shelters reported that their partners also
abused or killed the family pet. And another study found that in families
under supervision for physical abuse of their children, pet abuse was
concurrent in 88% of the families.[iv]
Can animal neglect indicate abuse toward people?
Animal abuse in
the form of neglect is often one of the first indicators of distress in the
household. Whether owing to lack of empathy, mental illness, or substance
abuse, a person who fails to provide minimal care for the family pet is more
likely to neglect the basic needs of other dependents in the household. In
many cases, children found living among the squalor of neglected pets are
taken into foster care. Animal hoarding is an extreme example of how
life-threatening neglect affects both people and animals. By the time an
animal hoarding situation is discovered, the unsanitary conditions and lack
of care may have killed a large number of the animals and compromised the
health of dependent children or elders in the household.
Is animal abuse
in children normal?
No. Children who abuse animals are sending out clear
warning signs that they pose a risk to themselves as well as to others. The
National School Safety Council, the U.S. Department of Education, the
American Psychological Association, and the National Crime Prevention
Council agree that animal cruelty is a warning sign for at-risk youth.[v]
Longitudinal studies show that chronic physical aggression (e.g., animal
cruelty) by elementary school boys increases the likelihood they will commit
continued physical violence as well as other nonviolent forms of delinquency
A child who abuses animals may also be acting out against violence in his
own home.[vii]. Professional intervention can remove a child from a potentially abusive
situation and divert him or her from future abusive behavior. Experts agree
that early prevention and treatment of animal cruelty is the key to stopping
the cycle of violence, because as aggressive children get older, they are
less responsive to therapeutic intervention[viii].
How can stopping animal abuse affect other issues?
investigating, and prosecuting animal cruelty can help take dangerous
criminals off the streets. Police know that in homes where animal abuse is a
problem, other issues are often concurrent. Acts of animal cruelty are
linked to a variety of other crimes, including violence against people,
property crimes, and drug or disorderly conduct offenses.
[ix] Stopping animal abuse in children can help curb violent tendencies
before they escalate to include violence against people.
Are there any
laws or policies addressing the connection between animal abuse and other
Several states have cross-reporting laws, which require social
workers, veterinarians, or doctors who encounter suspected child abuse to
report it. In San Diego, Calif., social workers must report suspected cases
of animal abuse to animal control officials.
[x] At least 13 states have laws allowing courts to include pets in
temporary restraining orders (TROs) in domestic violence situations.[xi]
At least 28 states have counseling provisions in their animal cruelty laws.
Four of these states require psychological counseling for anyone convicted
of animal cruelty, and six mandate counseling for juveniles convicted of
What can I do to help?
You can help stop the cycle of
violence by recognizing that animal abuse is an indicator of serious
problems. Reporting animal abuse can help authorities stop other types of
violence, and vice versa. Encouraging local law enforcement and prosecutors
to take crimes against animals seriously is the key to creating safer
communities. Animal cruelty in children should not be taken lightly.
Children who abuse animals shoud receive immediate professional
psychological intervention for both their own welfare and that of the
[i] Degenhardt, B. 2005. Statistical Summary of Offenders
Charged with Crimes against Companion Animals July 2001-July 2005. Report
from the Chicago Police Department.
[ii] Cohen, W. (1996). Congressional
Register, 142(141), Oct. 3.
[iii] Walton-Moss, B. J., Manganello, J., Frye,
V., & Campbell, J. C. (2005). "Risk factors for intimate partner violence
and associated injury among urban women." Journal of Community Health,
[iv] DeViney, E., Dickert, J., & Lockwood, R. (1983). "The
care of pets within child abusing families." International Journal for the
Study of Animal Problems, 4, 3321�3329.
[v] Randour, M. L. (2004).
"Including animal cruelty as a factor in assessing risk and designing
interventions." Conference Proceedings, Persistently Safe Schools, The
National Conference of the Hamilton Fish Institute on School and Community
Violence, Washington, D.C.
[vi] Broidy, L. M., Nagin, D. S., Tremblay, R.
E., Bates, J. E., Brame, B., Dodge, K., Fergusson, D., Horwood, J., Loeber,
R., Laird, R., Lynam, D., Moffitt, T., Petitt, G. S., & Vitario, F. (2003).
"Developmental trajectories of childhood disruptive behaviors and adolescent
delinquency: A six site cross national replication." Development and
Psychopathology, 39(2), 222�245.
[vii] Randour, M. L., & Davidson, H.
(2008). A Common Bond: Maltreated Children andAnimals in the Home:
Guidelines for Practice and Policy. The Humane Society of the United States:
[viii] Kazdin, A. E. (1995). Conduct Disorder in Childhood
and Adolescence (2nd ed.). Sage: Thousand Oaks, Calif. and Loeber, R.
(1990). "Development and risk factors in juvenile anti-social behavior and
delinquency." Clinical Psychology Review, 10, 1�42.
[ix] Arluke, A., &
Lockwood, R. (Eds.). (1997). Society & Animals, Special Theme Issue: Animal
Cruelty,5(3). Society & Animals Forum (formerly Psychologists for the
Ethical Treatment of Animals): Washington Grove, Md. 301-963-4751.