The Link between Animal Cruelty
and Human Violence
Stories of people who exhibit violence toward both human beings and animals are disturbingly common and come as little surprise to those involved with animal welfare.
The belief that one's treatment of animals is closely associated with the treatment of fellow human beings has a long history in philosophy. This idea served as the ethical foundation for the rise of the animal-welfare movement during the nineteenth century.
Despite the widespread historical recognition of the link between cruelty to animals and other forms of violent or antisocial behavior, this connection has, until recently, largely been ignored by law-enforcement agencies, the judicial system, social service agencies and others in a position to take action.
Much of the early evidence that inspired interest in this issue came from anecdotal case histories of individual criminals. There is compelling circumstantial evidence linking two groups of criminals -serial and mass murderers - with acts of cruelty to animals.
There is a significantly high incidence of such acts, usually prior to age twenty-five among people who have engaged in multiple murders:
Albert DeSalvo, the self-confessed " Boston Strangler" who killed 13 women between 1962-63 and was sentenced to life imprisonment on unrelated chargesof armed robbery, assault, and sex offenses involving four women, had, in his youth, trapped dogs and cats in orange crates and shot arrows through the boxes
Edmund Emil Kemper III, convicted in 1973 on 8 counts of first-degree murder for killing 8 women including his mother, had revealed at the trial that he had a history of abusing cats and dogs.
David Berkowitz, NY City's "Son of Sam" gunman who pleaded guilty to 13 murder and attempted murder charges, had shot a neighbor's Labrador retriever.
Brenda Spencer fired forty shots from a rifle at arriving San Diego school children, fatally wounding two and injuring nine others. During the subsequent investigation, neighbors informed police that Ms. Spencer had repeatedly abused dogs and cats, often by setting their tails on fire.
Carroll Edward Cole, one of the most prolific killers in modern history, was executed in Dec 1985 for 5 of the 35 murders of which he was accused. Mr. Cole said that his first act of violence as a child was to strangle a puppy.
Although most animal abusers will not commit sensational murders, serial killers almost invariably have histories of animal abuse earlier in their lives. This connection has serious implications for law enforcement.
(note: FBI has flagged cases of animal abusers and has put them in their watchlist. -PAWS)
Most of the research on animal abuse and adult crime has indicated that the first instances of cruelty to animals take place early in the abuser's lives.
As anthropologist Margaret Mead noted, "One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it." Nearly all young children go through a stage of "innocent" cruelty during which they may harm small insects or other small animals in the process of exploring the world and discovering their abilities. Most children, however, with proper guidance from parents and teachers, can become sensitive to the fact that animals experience pain and suffering and thus try to avoid causing such pain. Some, however, seem to become locked into a pattern of cruelty that can last a lifetime.
Perhaps the most important approach to the problem of animal cruelty is prevention. Some acts take place because authority figures allow them to occur by failing to discipline childhood episodes of cruelty. Without proper intervention, children may graduate to more serious abuses including violence against people. Do not ignore even minor acts of cruelty. Correct the child and, when possible, express your concerns to his or her parents. Appropriate intervention may, in this way, stop the cycle of abuse.
Scientists and lawmakers are slowly beginning to acknowledge the humane movement's long-held position that society's treatment of animals is inseparable from its treatment of human beings. This "new" realization echoes the sentiment of 18th-century philosopher Immanuel Kant: "He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals"
Source: The Tangled Web of Animal Abuse by Dr Randall Lockwood and Guy R. Hodge.