Animal Cruelty Information for Law Enforcement
HOW DO LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES USE THIS EVIDENCE?
The FBI identifies animal cruelty as one of a cluster of juvenile behaviors associated with increasingly violent behavior and uses animal cruelty in analyzing the threat potential of suspected and known criminals.
WHO ABUSES ANIMALS?
Most animal abusers are adolescent or young adult males, although children as young as four have been known to harm animals. Many animal abusers have a history of other antisocial or criminal activities, including vandalism, assault, and arson, and many are the victims of physical or sexual abuse. Animal cruelty is often associated with children who do poorly in school and have low self-esteem and few friends.
WHY WOULD ANYONE ABUSE ANIMALS?
There can be many reasons. Animal cruelty, like any other form of violence, is often committed by a person who feels powerless, unnoticed, and under the control of others. The motive may be to shock, threaten, intimidate, or offend others or to demonstrate rejection of society’s rules. Some who are cruel to animals copy things they have seen or that have been done to them. Others see harming an animal as a safe way to get revenge on someone who cares about that animal. In some cases, animal abuse is associated with deviant arousal.
IS ANIMAL CRUELTY RECOGNIZED AS A SIGN OF MENTAL DISORDER?
Yes. In the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), the American Psychiatric 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 eight.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO STOP ANIMAL ABUSERS WHEN THEY ARE YOUNG?
A 1994 report released by the National Research Council states that early intervention is more likely to reduce adult crime than criminal sanctions applied later in life. The report further states that childhood behavior is more important than teenage behavior in predicting future violence.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO PREVENT YOUNG ANIMAL ABUSERS FROM DEVELOPING INTO VIOLENT ADULTS?
Crimes against animals are not isolated events. FBI experts advise all appropriate agencies to share case information with one another. A comprehensive approach with cooperation from the family, support from the school, and counseling by a psychologist or social worker is essential.
HOW CAN LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS AND HUMANE INVESTIGATORS WORK TOGETHER?
Upholding anticruelty laws is usually the responsibility of local police, although in some communities, humane investigators have law enforcement powers. Law enforcement officers should be thoroughly familiar with anticruelty laws. They should get to know local humane investigators, who may be aware of potentially violent situations that have not come to the attention of the police. Humane investigators may also be able to provide helpful information relevant to ongoing investigations. Other important contacts for law enforcement officers include schoolteachers, child welfare professionals, crisis intervention teams, family shelter personnel, social workers, and veterinarians.
IS ANIMAL CRUELTY A CRIME?
Yes. Anticruelty laws exist in all states. In many states animal cruelty is a felony offense under certain circumstances.
If you would like more information, please contact us via email or phone:
Humane Education Department