Criminal Behavior

An awareness of the relations between animal abuse and other criminal behaviors is vital for the public, law enforcement and other professional disciplines that encounter animal abusers in their work. Animal cruelty is a criminal offense that often may related to other forms of criminal behavior  such as:

  • animal fighting operations
  • drug possession and distribution
  • possession, sale and transport of illegal animal species
  • gambling
  • tax evasion( from illegal gambling, fighting and breeding operations)
  • violence ( including homicides)
  • weapons ( illegal possession and use)

Given these realities, it is highly appropriate to view animal cruelty as a public safety and human welfare issue.


Warning! Graphic Information

triple homicide                       Courtesy of the National Link Coalition


  • Children’s acts of animal abuse are some of the strongest and earliest diagnostic indicators of conduct disorder, often beginning as young as age six and a half (Ascione, 2001).
  • In a Massachusetts study, 70% of animal abusers had criminal records including crimes involving violence, property, drugs or disorderly behavior (Arluke & Luke, 1997).
  • A Canadian police review of crime records found that 70% of people charged with cruelty to animals also had other reported incidents of violent behavior, including homicide (Boat & Knight, 2000).
  • The FBI identifies animal cruelty as one of several juvenile behaviors associated with increasingly violent behavior.
  • The FBI uses reports of animal cruelty in analyzing the threat potential of suspected and known criminals (Lockwood & Church, 1996).
  • Half of school shooters have histories of animal cruelty (Verlinden, Herson, & Thomas, 2000).
  • Individuals participating in criminal behavior were more likely to have witnessed and/or participated in animal abuse as a child (Hensley & Tallichet, 2005; Merz-Perez, Heide, & Silverman, 2001; Henry, 2000; Flynn, 2000).

In an Australian study:

  • 61.5% of convicted animal abuse offenders had also committed an assault.
  • 17% had committed sexual abuse and 8% had arson convictions.
  • Animal abuse was a better predictor of sexual assault than were previous convictions for homicide, arson or firearms offenses.
  • Animal cruelty offenders committed an average of four different types of criminal offenses.
  • All sexual homicide offenders reported having been cruel to animals.
  • Sexual assault, domestic violence and firearms offenses featured prominently in cruelty offenders’ criminal histories (Clarke, 2002).

Public safety is enhanced when:

  • Communities are knowledgeable about the Link
  • Link educated schools and educators are vigilant for early signs of animal cruelty and the Link
  • Early childhood mental health assessments include animal cruelty
  • Children displaying significant animal cruelty receive mental health assessment/intervention
  • Law enforcement and first responders are Link informed
  • Animal maltreatment cases are comprehensively investigated from a Link perspective
  • Cross-reporting occurs when other forms of Link behavior are identified or suspected
  • Animal cruelty offenders receive individualized risk assessment by Link educated evaluators
  • Animal cruelty offenders receive sentences requiring appropriate intervention to address public safety issues