Monday, April 4, 2011

The Crime/Animal Cruelty Connection

Animal Cruelty
by Gina Simmons, Ph.D. 

Earl got a kick out of lighting firecrackers after placing them in the rectums of neighborhood dogs. He also hung cats by the neck. Earl Kenneth Shriner later raped, stabbed and mutilated a seven-year-old boy. 

Brenda Spencer loved to set fire to the tails of dogs and cats. She later opened fire on an elementary school in San Diego, killing two people and injuring nine others.

Sharon McDonough, 44, tortured and murdered dozens of pets and ran what her son called a "concentration camp for the animals." After her adult son turned her in, her seven children were placed in foster care. Judge C. Randall Hinrichs lamented he couldn't sentence her to more than the 2 year maximum sentence saying, "The penal law is inadequate to adequately address the true magnitude of the actions here."

dog_abuseThe link between animal cruelty and crimes against people is well established. Children who harm animals tend to grow to abuse people. When a pattern of cruelty appears in children, they typically qualify for a diagnosis of conduct disorder. These kids often engage in vandalism, violence against others, and property crimes. When they grow up, they most often meet the criteria for antisocial personality disorder (APD). These are the psychopaths who lack empathy and find satisfaction from sadistic acts of cruelty.

Several states have proposed legislation for an animal abuse registry. California's bill, introduced by State Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez (AB 1277), sits in limbo because of California's budget woes. A registry like this can help law enforcement track those with this history and potentially prevent crimes against people. Of course the current economic climate makes passage of this legislation unlikely.

DNAIn March, a New York court was the first to use animal DNA to convict criminals of animal cruelty. Two young men doused a cat with lighter fluid and set it ablaze. Another young man beat a cat to death with an umbrella. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (A.S.P.S.A.) has collected animal DNA for six other cases. This trend can only grow, protecting both animals and humans from these sadistic criminals. 

Research shows that animal abusers often suffered physical and sexual abuse and witnessed domestic violence as children. Some of these children, with early intervention, might be helped. Teachers, counselors, neighbors and relatives of children with this problem can advocate for early mental health treatment. Care that coordinates law enforcement, counseling, child protective services and support can save some of these tormented youth. If these children obtain placement in a safe home early enough, many can grow to lead healthy, productive lives. 

Photos courtesy of Stoooi, DoubleNJenn and The fly over zone.


Cathy Scott said...

This is a subject sometimes tough to hear about, but it's a sad reality. Great post, Gina, about the subject of animals -- near and dear to my heart.

DrGina said...

Thank you Cathy. You've seen first hand the devastating effects of animal cruelty, beautifully written about in your Pawprints of Katrina book.

Cathy Scott said...

Aw. Thanks so much, Gina.