He wouldn’t harm a fly

The link between Animal Abuse and violence against people.

(First published in Animal Prints Magazine)

I still feel a vague sense of guilt when I remember how I used to swat flies and watch their squashed bodies slide almost imperceptibly down a wall or a window pane, like fat black currants. Recently, I had to deal with an infestation of ants in my kitchen but that’s another story. We all have to come into contact with animals in one way or another and sometimes (unless you’re a devout Jain perhaps) animals suffer because we exist, but when that suffering is deliberately inflicted by a human being it can be a sign of a disturbed and violent personality.

As obvious as it is to most enlightened people that treating animals badly is wrong, there is now startling evidence in the public domain that makes a strong case for the link between animal abuse and the most heinous violent crimes against people.

For example, in Oregon in 1998, Kit Kinkel killed his parents and two of his classmates as well as injuring many more. Kit Kinkel had a history of animal abuse and killed and maimed cats, squirrels and other animals by putting fireworks in their mouths. He also bragged about blowing up a cow.

Sadly this is only one example of this disturbing link. The National School Safety Centre in America is so convinced by the growing body of evidence that it advises teachers, parents and students that any child that ‘Displays cruelty to animals’ along with other behavioural traits, should be watched carefully.

In homes where child abuse is identified it is often the case that a significant degree of abuse against pets has occurred as well. The chilling case of Jesse K. Timmendequas, the paedophile whose crimes were the incentive for what has become known as Megan’s law is a stark illustration of this link. As a child he watched, as family pets were tortured in front of him while he himself was subjected to constant sexual and physical abuse.

Most of the existing research comes from America where the American Humane Association is engaged in a campaign to raise the legislators’ awareness of the link between animal abuse and violence against people. Some of the measures they advocate are: adding animal abuse reporting to the tasks of social workers and the imposition of much tougher penalties against animal abusers.

There is a disturbingly long list of violent criminals who have a history of animal abuse. Here are a few examples:

  • Albert DeSalvo, captured cats and dogs and then shot them with arrows. As the ‘Boston Strangler’ he went on to become a serial killer.
  • Brenda Spencer who took great delight in setting fire to cats’ tails took a gun and killed 2 children, wounding 9 others.
  • Carol Edmund Cole strangled a puppy and later murdered a staggering 35 people.
  • David Berkowitz, shot a pet Labrador in the days before he became known as the ‘Son of Sam’ murderer.
  • Edward Kemperer’s tally of death included cats, dogs, his mother, his grandparents and 7 other women.
  • Henry Lee Lucas murdered his wife and mother and many other people after killing animals and engaging in sex acts with their dead bodies.
  • Jeffrey Dahmer, the infamous serial killer had in earlier life, killed other people’s pets in gruesome ways.
  • Michael Cartier who shot and killed a woman abused rabbits at just 4 years old and he hurled a kitten through a closed window.
  • Patrick Sherril, kidnapped pets and used his own dog to kill and maim them, he later killed 14 of his workmates and committed suicide.
  • Richard Allen Davis poured petrol over cats and set them alight before he indulged in murder and kidnap.
  • Theodore Robert Bundy (Ted Bundy) Was exposed to severe animal cruelty as a child and became infamous for killing 33 women.
  • The Kobe Killer – a 15 year old Japanese boy, who decapitated an 11 year old and bludgeoned a 10 year old with a hammer had earlier in his life mercilessly strangled pigeons and beheaded a cat.

There is a long list of similar cases. More information is available at this website: http://www.qcawc.org/ (Note: this is an old article – links may be out of date)  just follow the appropriate links.

Besides the high profile of the extreme cases already mentioned, there are statistics that strongly suggest a correlation between those that participate in, or have been exposed to, animal abuse and those that engage in violent behaviour towards people. In some studies up to three quarters of prison inmates were found to have a history of animal abuse and an English study revealed that 83% of families reported for animal abuse were in the high risk category for child abuse. Conversely an American study revealed that in 88% of child abuse cases, at least one family member, usually a parent, had a history of animal abuse.

One study found that 40% of animal abusers had committed violent crime against people and in another it was shown that 71% of pet owning women entering domestic violence refuges said that their violent partner had killed or abused animals. This list goes on as well.

The obvious conclusion to be drawn from these horrifying statistics is that people displaying abusive behaviour towards animals are more likely to go on to violence against human beings. But what if there are degrees of abuse and therefore degrees of the sociopathic behaviour that results? Perhaps even abusing animals in what to most people is a relatively minor way. like taking their milk, feeds some of that darkness back into society. We’ve all heard the expression “He wouldn’t harm a fly”; perhaps this is a clue from our collective subconscious that harming or abusing animals in any way is wrong. Perhaps if we started to treat animals with the same respect that we ourselves expect to be treated the world would be a better place for animals and humans alike.

  

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