“The co-occurrence of animal abuse and some forms of criminal behavior demands that we make understanding this link part of our approach to fighting crime in our society”. – Laurie Robinson, Assistant Attorney General, Department of Justice
Until recently, violence towards children, partners, and the elderly had been considered to be unrelated to violence towards animals. However, overwhelming scientific research demonstrates the close relationship between animal cruelty and other types of crimes, including interpersonal violence, property crimes, and drug offenses. The body of research that has established this strong association also reveals that people who commit acts of cruelty towards animals rarely stop there. Such cruelty is often a marker of a perpetrator with a higher tendency toward violence.
Dramatically supporting the scientific research are cases that have captured the public’s attention:
Serial killers who committed animal cruelty crimes prior to their careers as serial killers.
o Ted Bundy,
o Richard Chase,
o Carroll Edward Cole (linked with 35 murders and executed for 5),
o Jeffrey Dahmer (who killed and cannibalized his victims),
o Albert DeSalvo (the Boston Strangler who killed 13 women),
o Dennis Rader,
o Gary Ridgeway
All engaged in acts of animal cruelty prior to their careers as serial killers.
School shooters shared a common feature. Prior to killing their classmates and teachers, all of the boys involved in these school shootings had performed acts of animal cruelty such as shooting dogs, setting cats on fire, blowing up cows, and killing other small animals.
o Pearl, Mississippi
o West Paducah, Kentucky
o Jonesboro, Arkansas
o Springfield, Oregon
o Littleton, Colorado
o Conyers, Georgia
o San Diego, California
Contract killer Richard Kuklinski abused animals as a youth.
Mass murderers also had animal cruelty in their backgrounds.
o Patrick Sherrill, who killed 14 coworkers at a post office and then shot himself, had a history of stealing local pets and allowing his own dog to attack and mutilate them,
o Brenda Spencer, who opened fire at a San Diego school, killing two children and injuring nine others, had repeatedly abused cats and dogs.
Sadistic killers also followed a similar pattern.
o Earl Kenneth Shriner, who raped, stabbed, and mutilated a 7-year-old boy, had been widely known in his neighborhood as the man who put firecrackers in dogs’ rectums and strung up cats.
The recent arrest of Interpol fugitive Luka Magnotta served as a rude reminder that animal cruelty is not a crime to be taken lightly. Magnotta was arrested in Germany for murdering, mutilating and cannibalizing a young man in Montreal, Canada. Magnotta recorded video of the murder, then posted it on the Internet. For two years prior, animal activists had been searching for a young man who had posted videos of himself online, torturing and killing cats. Montreal law enforcement has since identified the animal abuser as Magnotta.
Analyses by sociologists, psychologists and criminologists during the past 25 years show that perpetrators of animal cruelty frequently do not stop with animal victims. Many will move on to commit acts of violence against humans. A 1997 study by Northeastern University and the Massachusetts SPCA reported that nearly 40% of animal abusers had committed violent crimes against people.
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