The History of Human-Animal Interaction - The Link Between Animal Abuse Andviolence Against People
animals cruelty violence domestic
As illustrated in William Hogarth's artwork, there has long been a belief that cruelty towards animals and cruetly towards humans are related. In more recent times this belief has been reinforced by scientific and anecdotal evidence. Many notorious serial killers and mass murderers—including Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz ("Son of Sam"), and Albert de Salvo ("the Boston Strangler")—are known to have tortured and killed animals. Many of the children who carried out school shootings during the 1990s and 2000s (notably Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who killed twelve fellow students, one teacher, and themselves at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, in April 1999) had a history of cruelty to animals before they began committing violent acts against humans.
Diagnostic manuals of the American Psychiatric Association (1987, 1994) include cruelty to animals in the broad category of "conduct disorder." According to Frank R. Ascione, Claudia V. Webber, and David S. Wood, all of Utah State University, conduct disorder is "a pattern of antisocial behavior that can persist into adulthood" ("The Abuse of Animals and Domestic Violence: A National Survey for Shelters of Women Who Are Battered," Society & Animals: Journal of Human-Animal Studies, vol. 5, no. 3, 1997). The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry also lists cruelty to animals as a typical behavior exhibited in conduct disorder (http://www.aacap.org/publications/factsfam/conduct.htm, accessed May 6, 2005).
Many animal welfare activists, sociologists, psychologists, and law enforcement officials agree that a person who has abused animals will likely become involved in further antisocial and/or criminal behavior at some point. Studies have found that as many as 75% of incarcerated criminals in the United States have a history of torturing or killing animals (Eleanor Shelburne, "A Social Sentinel: Acts of Animal Cruelty Can Point to an Offender's Potential for Violence against Humans," http://www.arkonline.com/violence.html). According to the National Crime Prevention Council, a U.S. study of battered women who had sought the help of shelters found that 54% reported that their abuser had also tortured or killed animals in the home, versus 3% of women surveyed overall ("Strategy: Screening Animal Cruelty Cases for Domestic Violence," http://www.ncpc.org/ncpc/ncpc/?pg=2088-11202, accessed May 6, 2005).
Given these data, animal abuse is increasingly recognized as a serious crime in itself, with more states bringing felony charges against offenders. Additionally, successful programs have been created across the United States that join animal welfare organizations, local law enforcement, animal control officers, and child protective services so that all parties can be trained to look for signs of both animal abuse and domestic violence.