Why the Link is a Public Safety issue?

“The topic of animal cruelty may seem unimportant in the face of events like the Boston bombing, school shootings, and other recent tragedies, but we know there’s a history of animal cruelty in the backgrounds of many perpetrators of violent acts. Understanding this link between animal cruelty and interpersonal violence is critical to the Department.” — U.S. Department of Justice Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary Leary (2013)

“Animal cruelty crimes uncover other crimes – family violence, juvenile delinquency, drugs and human trafficking, and more.” – John Thompson, Deputy Executive Director, National Sheriffs Association (2014)


Incidence of Crimes in Criminal Records Pre:Post Animal Cruelty Arres

Research has shown that animal cruelty can be a predictor of future violence:

  • The FBI uses reports of animal cruelty in analyzing the threat potential of suspected and known criminals (Lockwood & Church, 1996).
  • 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).
  • Half of school shooters have histories of animal cruelty (Verlinden, Herson, & Thomas, 2000).
  • Animal abuse co-occurs with bullying, and both have been related to later antisocial behaviors (Gelhorn, Sakai, Price, Crowley, 2007; Gullone, Robertson, 2008).
  • Merz-Perez, Heide, & Silverman (2001) found that violent offenders incarcerated in a maximum security prison were significantly more likely than nonviolent offenders to have committed childhood acts of cruelty toward pets.

When someone witnesses or experiences abuse in the home, they have an increased chance of later become the perpetrator:

  • Youth who witness violence between family members or witness harm to animals are 3 times more likely to abuse animals (Baldry, 2005).
  • Individuals who witnessed animal cruelty were 8.14 times more likely to be perpetrators.  Witnessing animal cruelty was the biggest predictor of later violence by the witness (DeGue & DeLillo, 2009).
  • 62% to 76% of animal cruelty in the home occurs in front of children (Faver & Strand, 2003).
  • Children exposed to domestic violence were nearly three times more likely to exhibit cruelty toward animals than children who had no prior history of witnessing domestic violence (Currie, 2006).
  • Sexually abused children were five times more likely to abuse animals than were children who were not sexually abused (Ascione, Friedrich, Heath, & Hayashi, 2003).
  • 60% of individuals who witnessed or perpetrated animal abuse also experienced family violence (DeGrue & DiLillo, 2009).

Often multiple forms of violence are occurring at the same time.  When perpetrators are committing multiple forms of abuse, they have a higher risk level and dangerousness factors:

  • Batterers who also abuse their pets are both more controlling and use more dangerous forms of violence [sexual violence, marital rape, emotional violence and stalking] than batters who do not (Simmons & Lehmann, 2007).
  • Threatened or actual abuse of a pet was found to be one of the partner characteristics associated to interpersonal violence (Walton-Moss, Manganello, Frye & Campbell, 2005).
  • Women in domestic violence shelters are 11 times more likely to report animal abuse by their partner than women not experiencing violence (Ascione, Weber, Thompson, Heath, Maruyama, & Hayashi, 2007).
  • “According to a three-year study by the Chicago Police Department, 65 percent of the people arrested for animal abuse crimes—including dogfighting—were also arrested for violent crimes against people” (HSUS, 2007).
  • In a Massachusetts study, 70% of animal abuses 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).
  • 70% of the animal abusers studied also had a criminal record and 38% had a violent crime record (MSPCA and Northwestern University, 1997).