The National Museum of Crime and Punishment recently had a guest speaker from the Washington humane society talk about the link between cruelty to animals and violence towards humans. The importance of this issue is underscored by the fact that the museum has dedicated a page on its websiteto raise awareness of the topic.
Why is awareness of animal abuse so important? For one, animal abuse is abjectly wrong. Beyond that, it has been shown that animal abuse is indicative of domestic violence. One study showed that almost 80% of abused women in violent domestic relationships reported that their abusers also abused or killed the family pet; another study suggests that 80% of all child abusers have a history of animal abuse as well. The link is not surprising given that animals and children have vulnerability in common, both are unlikely to be able to fight back and are easily hurt.
The tragic truth is that children who witness animal abuse are then more inclined to be cruel or violent towards animals and people in the future.
There is also a very strong link between cruelty towards animals by children and future propensity for violence. If we look at some of the school shootings in this nation we see that a number of the perpetrators also abused animals. The 1997 Pearl High School shooter tortured his own dog to death, the 1982 Thurston High School shooter had a history of torturing and killing cats and cows, one of the shooters in the 1998 Westside Middle School shootings shot dogs, including his own pet, before moving up to shooting people. Many psychologists believe that cruelty toward animals in children is a predictor not only for potential psychopathy but also for future violence towards people. In fact, many serial killers have also been shown to have tortured and killed animals in their youth.
Animal abuse must be stopped not just because it is wrong but because it also breeds violence in the community, violence that effects us all.