Animal Cruelty and Human Violence
Too often we hear "boys will boys" or "it's just a dumb animal" but cruelty to animals, more specifically the torturing of animals, is far from just an innocent and careless incident; it's a sign of something far more serious. In fact, some of America's most notorious serial killers had a history of cruelty to animals in their childhood. Children who engage in animal cruelty are more likely to commit more violent acts as adults. There is also a strong link between abuse of animals and domestic violence, with animal abusers much more likely to batter their wives or girlfriends as well. Animal cruelty is a very broad term and encompasses a wide range of behaviors harmful to any animal, domestic or wild, from intentional and unintentional neglect to malicious killing. Intentional animal cruelty can be defined as abuse in which a person knowingly deprives an animal of its basic needs i.e. food, water, shelter or veterinary care or involves maliciously torturing, mutilating, maiming, or killing an animal. Former director of the Center for Animals and Public Policy at Tufts University's College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Andrew Rowan, developed a classification system dividing the term "animal cruelty" into four distinct definitions: cruelty, abuse, neglect, and use to better define the broad term.
According to the classification system Dr. Rowan devised, cruelty occurs when an individual's motivation for causing animal suffering is to gain pleasure or satisfaction. Acts of animal cruelty are deliberate and are often planned, or premeditated. Lighting a firecracker in the mouth of a cat would be an example of cruel behavior. Abuse occurs when an individual causes an animal to suffer as a way of achieving dominance or a behavioral response. The individual responsible for the abuse doesn't enjoy harming the animal; however, he or she is merely trying to exercise power over the animal or to control its actions. An animal trainer whipping an elephant as a means to force the animal to perform circus tricks would be an example of abusive behavior. Neglect occurs when individuals fail to provide their animals with the proper necessities: food, water, attention, shelter, grooming, or veterinary care. In these instances the neglect is because of acts of omission rather than commission and does not give the neglectful owner satisfaction . The neighborhood "cat lady" would be an example of neglectful behavior because she, as the owner, has more animals than she can afford and therefore is unable to give them the proper necessities mentioned earlier in the paragraph. The fourth and final definition of "animal cruelty" is use. Use of animals for profit or other personal gain can often result in their suffering. People who use animals rarely experience emotional satisfaction from inflicting harm on them and they usually they view the consequences of their harmful behaviors as a "necessary evil". Raising animals for food is an example of animal use.
The connection between animal cruelty and human violence was first observed in the 1970s, when the FBI analyzed the life histories of imprisoned serial killers and discovered that a commonality between the criminals was that as children they had all killed or tortured animals. Today, animal cruelty is widely recognized as a sign of serious psychological distress. It often indicates that an individual has either experienced or observed violence firsthand or has an above average likelihood of becoming violent toward other people. Not only have these links been established in the lives of serial killers but experts have also acknowledged those links in homes where animal abuse is prevalent, and child abuse or other domestic violence is more likely to occur as well. In 1997, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) and Northeastern University analyzed prosecuted cruelty cases reported to the MSPCA between 1975 and 1996. The...
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