Violent offences and Animal cruelty

For decades, psychologists, police prosecutors, and other stakeholders involved in crime reduction have looked for warning signals in suspected offenders. With the rise of school shootings in recent years, there has been a particular focus on youth. Academics, agencies, and community groups working to deter potential school shootings have worked to recognize and profile common offenders in order to identify students before they commit more violent crimes. Animal abuse is one of the actions that has been related to these crimes. As early as the 1960s, criminologists, psychiatrists, as well as other criminal investigators had begun exploring the linkage between animal cruelty and future violent behaviors. The behavior has been linked to violent offenses including rape, severe domestic violence, homicide and mass murder. According to Degue and Dilillo (2009), animal cruelty goes beyond simply abusing animals and is likely to determine the future behaviors of the perpetrator towards other people. Research have established that in domestic violence, animal cruelty can be a way of the abusers to threaten their partners or children what would happen to them in case they rebel. Animal cruelty practices such dog fighting have been linked with guns, gangs, drugs as well as gambling and children exposed to such environment become desensitized and drawn away from empathy, leading to future violent offenses. This paper explores how animal cruelty leads to violent offenses.

Cruelty towards animal has increasingly become a cause for concern as evidence continue emerging on its association with violence against fellow humans. Animal cruelty takes many forms ranging from neglect to malicious torture and murder. Animal abusers in most cases fail to provide the animals with necessities of life such as food, shelter and water. At other times, cruelty to animals takes a more deliberate intention such as willful or reckless neglect, for instance withholding of food, water, shelter or care or malicious cruelty, which includes torture, mutilation, maiming as well as brutal killing of the animals. Animal cruelty is normally defined in different perspectives such clinical and legal definition. Generally, however, acts that are considered as constituting animal cruelty are non-accidental, socially unacceptable, and leading to pain, suffering, distress and death of the involved animal. It is important to consider both the intent and the action when arriving at the conclusion that cruelty has been subjected to an animal.

There is wide range of findings from literature that links animal cruelty to violent offenses to other people. According to the findings of Madfis and Arluke (2014), of 23 school shooters evaluated, 10 of them representing 43 percent had history of animal cruelty. The proportion was found to be consistent with other form of extreme killing including serial killing where a study by Wright and Hensley (2003) established that a the percentage of serial killers who had abused animals in their youth ranged between 21 percent and 46 percent. The nature of violence committed against animals have also been associated with the type of offenses that the perpetrators are likely to engage in the future. For instance, extreme violent offenses such as mass shooting has been associated with people who abused animals using up-close and personal manner. In a sample of 10 school shooters in the study by Madfis and Arluke (2014), 90 percent of animal abusing school shooters had meted their cruelty in an up close and personal way. Some of the up-close and personal methods used by the violent offenders includes decapitating animals, dissecting live animals, brewing them up, and setting them on fire.

The cruelty against animals is not targeted to specific animals, but there are some animals who are at increased risk of being victims of cruelty. For instance, dogs and cats are more susceptible to abuse probably because they are used by most families as pets. In the findings of Madfis and Arluke (2014), 70 percent of the school shooter who had abused animals targeted dogs and cats, but not from their own homes or neighborhoods. Only 30 percent of offenders targeted familiar animals, which were owned either by their families or by neighbors. The animals targeted in this case were mostly pets. These findings are consistent with those of Levin and Arluke (2009) who established that serial killers who exercised animal violence tended to choose animals they were unfamiliar with. Similarly, Levin and Arluke (1999) established that in most case, the animals who were more likely to be victims were dogs- In 88 percent of the cases cats and dogs were involved.

Animal cruelty and Intimate partner violence

According to Adam (1995) there are numerous reasons that men are likely to kill their companion animals which ranges from demonstration or expressing of their power to expression of rage and intent to punish or terrorize. Moreover, men uses animal cruelty as means to teach submission and discourage their partners from leaving. In a survey of battered animal by Flynn (2000), it was established that some husband were jealous of the relationship between their wives and pets which led them to abuse the animals. The jealous came from the assumption that women cared more about their pet than the men did. According to Beetz (2008), some batterers may go to the extent of forcing their partners to have sex with the animals with the intention of humiliating them. The link between animal cruelty and partner violence is further explained by Ascione et al. (2007) whose survey found that 54 percent of women in domestic violence shelter in Utah indicated that their partners had either harmed or killed their animals.

Animal cruelty and Children

Theoretically, the relationship between animal cruelty and child abuse is partly due to the fact that the same behavior put the two groups at the risk of mistreatment. According to loar (1999), adult are often not able to meet the need of the children and those of the animals, neither are they able to meet their need for constant supervision or cope with high activity levels. Moreover, adults may lack the ability to cope with noise, display of resistance, destructive behavior and toileting habits of both children and animals. Loar asserts that the behavior indicators of those who abuse their children are the same for those who abuse or neglect their animals. For children, exposure to domestic violence leads them to exercising cruelty toward animals. In study conducted Currie (2006), people who were exposed to domestic violence as children had higher self-reported rated of animal cruelty. In turn, the practice of animal cruelty in childhood and or adolescence has an association with self reported delinquency. Knight, Ellis and Simmons (2014) asserted that individuals who indicated being cruel to animals when they were children were highly likely to be perpetrators and victims of domestic violence as adults in comparison to those who had not been cruel to animals.

Sexual abuse

Another prominent crime among animal cruelty offenders is rape offenses. This is associated with animal sexual abuse including vaginal, anal as well as oral penetration, fondling, and penetration through use of objects (Beirne, 1997). Sexual contact with animals is considered interspecies sexual assault due to the fact that it entails coercion through the use of human power. Such acts may result to not only pain in animals but may also lead to death. One cause that has been identified as leading to animal sexual abuse is inability to relate to other human beings or feeling of isolation, insecurity, embarrassment or fear of rejection. Individuals with such habits of coercing animals into sex are likely to be violent even on human beings especially those who are unable to voice consent or resistance. According to English, Jones, Patrick and Pasini-Hill (2003), some sexual offenders especially against children consented of having engaged in sexual activities with animals. This is supported by Abel (2008) who in a study involving 44,202 adult males engaged in sexual misconduct pointed out at animal sexual abuse as one of the largest predictor of sexual abuse against children.

Other criminal behavior among animal cruelty offenders

Animal cruelty offenders tend to have convictions for numerous other offenses and frequently interpersonal crimes. For instance, Gullone and Clarke (2006), found that 200 people with a record of animal abuse in New South Wales’ database had on average four different type of other violent offenses. Assault ranked first at 61.5 percent while many other had been arrested in connection to domestic violence. Sexual abuse also ranked among other offenses committed by animal offenders. These findings were consistent with the earlier findings by Arluke, Levin, Luke and Ascione (1999) who in comparing the criminal records of 153 animal cruelty offenders established that most of them were likely to have been involved in other forms of violent offenses. These findings are in support of defiance generalization hypothesis, which outlines that, “a wide range of criminal behaviors are positively correlated with one another either because one form of deviant behavior leads to involvement in other forms of deviance or because different forms of deviance have the same underlying causes” (Arluke, Levin, Luke, & Ascione, 1999, p. 965). It is therefore evident that animal cruelty can serve as indicator of other violent offenses.

Offenders involved in animal cruelty shares similar motives with individuals who commit other violence offences such as mass shooting in skills and serial killers (Fox & Levin, 2012). One common denominators among these offenders is their methods of abuse in addition to the choice of victims. Research have associated the kind of sadistic violence committed by serial killers with humiliation and internalized shame they went through during their childhood. For them inflict pain and suffering n other is a way of compensating what they went through themselves. School shooters or other mass shooter in a similar way may have been subjected to humiliation and shame or have been bullied for prolonged periods. The drive to harm animals in such individuals maybe as a result of a quest to exert power and influence over another being even when such a being is not human. The offenders have the desire to exercise power and control over the lives of others, both human and non-human. They take pride in deciding who dies or lives or who suffers pain. Therefore, cases of animal cruelty and human destructiveness are similarly motivated in that they serve to compensate for a person’s feelings of powerless and vulnerability and provide them with a false sense of strength and superiority.


Criminology research have established a link between cruelty towards animal and violent offenses among people. Cruelty towards animal among children and adolescent should serve as warning signs of other violent offenses in future. For instance, serial killers and mass shooters have been found to have an association with abusing animals during their childhood. Animal cruelty generally develops out of several circumstances. Domestic violence at home leads to children failure to develop normally and exercise the violence they witness at their homes to animals, which they find helpless. Animals like dogs and cats which are majorly kept as pets in most homes becomes vulnerable to abuse. Moreover, animal cruelty may develop from a need to scare partners in submission and make them not leave. Men particularly in homes where domestic violence is prevalent uses animals as an example of what will happen to their partners if they dissent in any way. Cruelty in animals may also be in form of coerced sex especially among people who are not able to relate with other humans. Such people are very likely to sexually abuse other humans who are vulnerable especially children. Therefore, violent against animals should be closely monitored and corrected early in advance.


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