Are all acts of animal maltreatment indicators or predictors of a person being violent towards people?
No, the fact that an individual has maltreated an animal does not automatically mean that they are, or will be, violent towards people. Animal maltreatment occurs across a wide spectrum of circumstances ranging from onetime instances of an animal experiencing mild, temporary discomfort to severe multiple acts of neglect or abuse fitting the legal definition of animal cruelty in Colorado. It is always necessary to understand the context and specifics of the maltreatment in order to further determine if there are greater issues of public safety and welfare.
Research indicates that there is not always a direct correlation between animal cruelty and human violence; however, there is substantial evidence that a significant number of individuals that do engage in acts of callousness and violence toward animals are also violent toward humans or present other forms of risk to public safety. In some cases, animal maltreatment is an indicator of other stressors and/or mental health conditions which affect the individual’s ability to properly care for animals. Individuals suffering from significant mental health disturbances often have a diminished ability to care for themselves and others (including animals). For some individuals the abuse stems from a lack of awareness of proper and humane care of animals, which often can be effectively addressed through education, guidance and support.
The Colorado LINK Project recommends that all matters of animal maltreatment be taken seriously and investigated by appropriate professionals. In instances where sufficient harm has occurred to meet the threshold of animal cruelty by Colorado Revised Statute 18-9-202, it is prudent to prosecute accordingly and obtain animal cruelty “offense specific” evaluations of animal cruelty offenders to assist in identification of those individuals that pose a threat to public safety and welfare. It is recommended that sentencing and interventions be individualized based on a response continuum.