By Katie McHenry

Animal Abuse is a Felony

Links Between Animal Abuse and Other Violent Crimes

In 2016, the FBI officially recognized animal abuse as a felony crime alongside burglary, arson, and homicide. This decision was  influenced in part by a National Sheriffs’ Association report that cited studies linking animal abuse to other types of violent crime –  most famously, murders committed by serial killers, as well as  school shootings, acts of domestic violence, and child abuse. A year later, the Senate unanimously passed the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act with bipartisan support, showing that, even amid political polarization, both Republicans and Democrats agree that animal cruelty is a serious crime.

The Child’s Age is an Important Factor

According to Psychology Today, nearly all violent criminals have a history of animal abuse. Does this mean that every child who has hurt an animal will grow up to be a serial killer? Probably not, but a combination of the child’s age range and motive (such as peer pressure and desire to fit in with the rest of the group, post-traumatic re-enactment of their own abuse, or acting out fantasies of violence against humans) could tell their parents whether professional intervention is warranted.

Younger children, up until about kindergarten or first grade, might understand that cruelty to other humans is wrong yet still see animals as toys on which to experiment. Take for example, a child pulling a dog’s tail or trying to sit on a cat. In these cases, parents need to teach the child that being mean to the family pet is on par with being mean to other humans. However, after first grade (unless the child is developmentally disabled), children understand that cruelty to animals is wrong.

SPCA NOVA Cats – Champ and Lucy

The boys who abused Champ and Lucy (See Horrific Beginning, Bright Future) were age 11 or 12, which is a major red flag that professional intervention is needed. Either the children involved were witnessing abuse at home or that they run the risk of growing up to hurt other people.

Sadly, these boys who were abusing Champ and Lucy weren’t apprehended. Their rescuer was rightly focused on saving the kittens first. She may also not have known to whom to turn for help. It’s best in these situations – once the abused animals are safe – to immediately contact the local animal control agency or the local police department that can help direct the call.

Humane Education for Children is Important

The best way to teach children to be kind to animals is by example. Including humane education in schools and extra-curricular activities is especially important. If a child has been taught that hurting animals is wrong but engages in abusive behavior anyway, it’s time to seek professional help.