Animal cruelty hurts everyone

Published 2:23 pm Wednesday, February 28, 2001

APD Assistant Chief of Police
Animal cruelty encompasses a range of behavior harmful to animals, from neglect to malicious killing. Most cruelty investigated by humane officers is unintentional neglect that can be resolved through education. Intentional cruelty, or abuse, is knowingly depriving an animal of food, water, shelter, socialization, or veterinary care or maliciously torturing, maiming, mutilating, or killing an animal.
In "The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders," the American Psychological Association lists animal cruelty as one of the behaviors signaling conduct disorder. Clinical evidence indicates that animal cruelty is one of the symptoms usually seen at the earliest stages of conduct disorder, often by the age of 8. A growing area of interest for domestic violence researchers is the evidence of cruelty to pets in abusive domestic relationships. Cruelty to pets, even by children, has been documented in many studies over the last 25 years. It is believed by many to be a strong indicator of violence in the family.
Animal abuse is a crime punishable by law in every state. The 2000 Alabama Legislature established, effective August 1, 2000, the Cruelty to Domesticated Dogs or Cats in the first and second degrees: First degree cruelty involves intentionally torturing or skinning a domestic dog or cat, offering for sale or exchange, or offering to buy or exchange the fur, hide, pelt of domestic dog or cat. First degree cruelty is a class C felony.
Similarities between animal abuse and human abuse:
Accounts of accidents do not fit injuries observed.
Owner refuses to comment on how the injury came about;
Owners show lack of concern for the injuries;
Delay in seeking veterinary/medical treatment;
Just as many victims will not leave without the children, or will return to an abusive relationship to ensure pet safety;
A child's violence against animals often represents displaced hostility and aggression stemming from the family's neglect or abuse of the child;
In some cases the bond between the victim and pet makes the pet a target. A victim's silence or child's silence may be bought with the threat to harm or destroy a pet.
Why do batterers threaten, abuse or kill animals?
To demonstrate and confirm power and control over the family;
To isolate the victim and children;
To eliminate competition;
To force family members to keep violence a secret;
To teach submission;
As retaliation for acts of independence;
As punishment for leaving;
To prevent the victim from leaving or coerce return.
Why recognize animal abuse as a form of battering?
Exposes deliberateness of battering;
Lethality indicator;
Can help identify other victims of violence;
Adds another agency able to intervene on behalf of family;
Batterer's history of animal abuse may provide information for obtaining protection order and assessing the extent of emotional damage done to children.
Violence has become one of the defining characteristics of our age. Even if it hasn't touched our lives directly, we are confronted with images and effects of it daily in the news. Because it affects all of us, it is a problem we all must address together.
One hears of animal abuse, child abuse, spouse abuse, abuse of elderly, sexual harassment, violence in the workplace, and so on. But when crimes are categorized in this way, it is easy to lose sight of the big picture. Violence cuts across all categories, but animal abuse is often an early warning sign of violent tendencies and serious problems within the family that will be acted out eventually against people.
Animal cruelty hurts everybody. One of the greatest contributions the community can make is to get people throughout the community working together to stop all forms of violence, thereby helping animals, children and adults.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox