Some common motivations for acts of animal abuse are:
- ignorance about humane and proper care of animals (very common with neglect)
- a basic level of callousness towards animals as sentient creatures
- as a form of amusement or “shock value” (common with youth)
- unmanaged emotions resulting in behaviors directed at animals (anger/rage)
- prejudicial behaviors towards a particular species (example: “cat haters”)
- retaliation towards an animal or person
- to gain a sense of “power and control” over an animal or person
- to deliberately intimidate and influence another person (such as causing fear to gain compliance or silence)
- to gain pleasure from the pain an suffering of another living creature (sadistic behavior)
- for economic gain (common in fighting operations)
- as a form of ritual supported by cultural background (such as ritual sacrifices)
People abuse animals for a variety of reasons and with varying levels of harm. Some acts of animal cruelty are the result of ignorance about humane and proper care of animals or impulsive actions stemming from unmanaged emotions. Animal cruelty may also be very deliberate, planned and goal directed such as in domestic violence situations where the abuser may be harming an animal to intimidate, terrorize and/or coerce a victim and/or for retaliatory acts towards a victim. Sadistic individuals derive pleasure from causing and observing other living creatures experience pain. In other instances the abuse may be less intentional and influenced more by the diminished mental state of the individuals such as hoarders, whose perception of their environment and behaviors is extremely distorted. When individuals diminish or deny or fail to recognize the sentient capacities of animals, the likelihood of abuse is increased.
It is important to determine the underlying reasons and motivations for the acts of animal cruelty of a specific individual. Individualized assessment is necessary to ensure appropriate and effective interventions with animal cruelty offenders.