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A very interesting study,

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1 A very interesting study, on Thu Jul 02, 2009 5:03 pm


Cruel acts toward animals have long been recognized as indicators of a dangerous psychopathy that often claims more than animal victims. “Murderers ... very often start out by killing and torturing animals as kids,” according to Robert K. Ressler, who developed profiles of serial killers for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).(1) Studies have now convinced sociologists, lawmakers, law enforcement officials, and the courts that acts of cruelty to animals deserve our attention. They can be the first sign of a violent pathology that includes human victims.

Cruelty to Animals: The First of Many Crimes?
Acts of cruelty to animals are not mere indications of a minor personality flaw in the abuser; they are symptomatic of a deep mental disturbance. Research in psychology and criminology shows that people who commit acts of cruelty to animals don't stop there—many of them move on to their fellow humans.

Studies have shown that violent and aggressive criminals are more likely to have abused animals as children than criminals considered non-aggressive.(2) A survey of psychiatric patients who had repeatedly tortured dogs and cats found that all of them had high levels of aggression toward people as well.(3) According to a New South Wales newspaper, a police study in Australia revealed that “100 percent of sexual homicide offenders examined had a history of animal cruelty.”(4) To researchers, a fascination with cruelty to animals is a red flag in the lives of serial killers and rapists; according to the FBI's Ressler, “These are the kids who never learned it's wrong to poke out a puppy's eyes.”(5)

Examples That Make the Headlines: Notorious Killers
History is replete with serial killers whose violent tendencies were first directed at animals. Albert DeSalvo, the “Boston Strangler” who killed 13 women, trapped dogs and cats and shot arrows at them through boxes in his youth.(6) Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer had impaled dogs' heads, frogs, and cats on sticks.(7) Dennis Rader, the so-called “BTK” killer who terrorized people in Kansas, wrote in a chronological account of his childhood that he hanged a dog and a cat.(Cool During the trial of convicted sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, a psychology professor testified that the teenager who killed 10 people with a rifle had “pelted—and probably killed—numerous cats with marbles from a slingshot when he was about 14.”(9)

The deadly violence that has shattered schools in recent years has, in most cases, begun with cruelty to animals. High-school killers such as 15-year-old Kip Kinkel in Springfield, Oregon, and Luke Woodham, 16, in Pearl, Mississippi, tortured animals before starting their shooting sprees.(10) Columbine High School students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who shot and killed 12 classmates before turning their guns on themselves, spoke of mutilating animals to their classmates.(11)

“There is a common theme to all of the shootings of recent years,” says Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, director of the Child Study Center at New York University. “You have a child who has symptoms of aggression toward his peers, an interest in fire, cruelty to animals, social isolation, and many warning signs that the school has ignored.”(12)

Sadly, many of these criminals' childhood violence went unexamined—until it was directed toward humans.

‘The Link' Next Door: Cruelty to Animals and Family Violence
Because abusers target the powerless, crimes against animals, spouses, children, and the elderly often go hand in hand. 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.

Parents who neglect or abuse an animal frequently subject their own children to similar hardships. Indiana residents Jade M. Jonas and Michael R. Smith faced felony charges stemming from authorities' reported discovery of their two children and three dogs languishing in their filthy home. According to news sources, officials first found a tethered dog deprived of food and water outside the home. Upon entering the couple's residence, investigators are reported to have found a 3-month-old boy lying near piles of feces, trash, and rotten food; a half-clothed toddler; and two additional dogs.(13) In another case, Illinois authorities found 40 parasite-ridden dogs languishing amid 6 inches of feces on property occupied by John Morris. According to news reports, officials responding to neighbors' concerns found the sick and emaciated dogs confined to filthy animal carriers before confirming that three children, ages 3, 10, and 15, lived in the horrific conditions as well.(14)

Sixty percent of more than 50 New Jersey families being treated for child abuse also had animals in the home who had been abused.(15) In three separate studies, more than half of the battered women surveyed reported that their abuser threatened or injured their animal companions.(16) In one of those studies, one in four women said that she stayed with the batterer because she feared leaving the animal behind.(17)

Stephen Williams was charged with cruelty to animals, child cruelty, and aggravated assault in Georgia after allegedly hacking to death his wife's puppy with an ax and threatening to decapitate her with the same weapon—all in front of three horrified children.(18) Scott Maust of Pennsylvania was charged with corruption of minors, making terroristic threats, and cruelty to animals after allegedly shooting his family's dog with a .22-caliber firearm, ordering his four children to clean up the bloody scene, and threatening to kill them if they told anyone.(19)

Stopping the Cycle of Abuse
Schools, parents, communities, and courts who shrug off cruelty to animals as a “minor” crime are ignoring a time bomb. Instead, courts should aggressively penalize animal abusers, examine families for other signs of violence, and order perpetrators to undergo psychological evaluations and counseling. Communities must recognize that abuse to any living individual is unacceptable and endangers everyone .

Baltimore police who file domestic violence reports are required to note the presence and condition of animal companions. The Boston Police Department partners with the New England Animal Control/Humane Task Force to detect and respond to domestic violence associated with cruelty investigations. The New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women works with animal control to identify signs of domestic violence.

Additionally, children should be taught to care for and respect animals in their own right. After an extensive study of the links between animal abuse and human abuse, two experts concluded, “The evolution of a more gentle and benign relationship in human society might be enhanced by our promotion of a more positive and nurturing ethic between children and animals.”(20)

What You Can Do
• Urge your local school, law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and judges to take cruelty to animals seriously. Those charged with protecting our communities and animals must send a strong message that violence against any feeling creature—human or nonhuman—is unacceptable.
• Be aware of signs of neglect or abuse in children and animals and immediately report suspected crimes to authorities. Take children seriously if they report that animals are being neglected or mistreated. Some children won't talk about their own suffering but will talk about an animal's.
• Don't ignore even minor acts of cruelty to animals by children. Talk to the child and the child's parents. If necessary, call a social worker.

The links between child abuse and animal abuse

Fiona Becker (NSPCC Child Protection Training & Consultancy Group) October 2001

Key points
Animal abuse does not necessarily lead to interpersonal violence however, there is a need to come to a better understanding of the circumstances in which it does. Research to date has predominantly been conducted in the United States and the sample sizes have generally been small. There is an urgent need for further UK research. Meanwhile, the existing research findings which indicate a relation (often referred to as 'the link') between child abuse and animal abuse, should not be ignored.
Violence against animals cannot be dismissed or treated as an isolated problem. Rather, acts of animal abuse should be considered within the context of a much wider picture of family violence. Consequently policies, service provision, and training should take account of the link.
Closer collaborative working between child welfare and animal welfare organisations could make a positive contribution to the protection and welfare of children, families, and animals.
Research findings
Historical background
Although the past two decades have seen a resurgence of research into the links between how animals are treated and how people treat each other, the association has been acknowledged for centuries. For example, in 1705 the philosopher John Locke observed that cruelty to animals can lead to cruelty to human beings: "they who delight in the suffering and destruction of inferior creatures, will not be apt to be very compassionate or benign to those of their own kind" (Locke, quoted in Ascione and Arlow, 1999, p.197).The English artist William Hogarth (1697 - 1764) was the first artist to condemn animal cruelty and theorise on its human consequences (cited in Lockwood and Ascione, 1998, p.114) More recently, the anthropologist, Margaret Mead (1964) suggested that childhood cruelty to animals might be a precursor to anti-social violence as an adult. Cont------

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