What is the best form of treatment for an animal cruelty offender?

Animal cruelty offenders are unique and “one size fits all” interventions may not address the relevant treatment needs of a specific individual. Not all individuals that have engaged in animal maltreatment will need or be required to participate in mental health treatment. Treatment interventions that are matched to the individualized features of the offender have a greater potential for success.

The three general diagnostic categories of criminality based (criminogenic), trauma based (traumagenic) and psychologically based (psychogenic) serve to categorize the underlying behavioral dynamics of a particular individual and provide direction for developing treatment interventions.

For some individuals, one primary diagnostic category is evident (for example, criminogenic) with little or no evidence of other diagnostic categories. Treatment interventions with these types of individual might focus on cognitive/behavioral strategies combined with accountability and victim empathy development. Other individuals may evidence multiple diagnostic categories such as psychological disturbance and significant trauma. For these individuals, effective treatment interventions might include medication and psychiatric management along with therapy to address trauma issues and reduce trauma reactivity and ancillary symptoms.

Although anger management is commonly ordered for animal cruelty offenders, it may not be an appropriate intervention for individuals that have underlying issues that are not anger based. Animal cruelty “offense specific” evaluations aid in the identification of diagnostic categories and suggest interventions relevant to the unique features of the animal cruelty offender.