Animal Cruelty Information for Parents/Concerned Neighbors
AS NATURAL “EXPLORERS,” DON’T ALL CHILDREN SOMETIMES HARM ANIMALS?
No. While some children kill insects, few torture pets or other small creatures. If allowed to harm animals, children are more likely to be violent later in life. Animal cruelty, like any other violence, should never be attributed to a stage of development.
WHAT KIND OF CHILDREN ARE CRUEL TO ANIMALS?
Serious or repeated animal cruelty is seen more often in boys than in girls. Children as young as four may harm animals, but such behavior is most common during adolescence. Cruelty is often associated with children who do poorly in school and have low self-esteem and few friends. Children who are cruel to animals are often characterized as bullies and may have a history of truancy, vandalism, and other antisocial behaviors.
WHAT DOES ANIMAL CRUELTY INDICATE ABOUT FAMILY DYNAMICS?
Researchers say that a child’s violence against animals often represents displaced hostility and aggression stemming from neglect or abuse of the child or of another family member. Animal cruelty committed by any member of a family, whether parent or child, often means child abuse occurs in that family.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF MY CHILD OR A NEIGHBOR’S CHILD HAS HARMED AN ANIMAL?
If you suspect your child has deliberately harmed an animal, talk to your child. Try to discover what caused the cruelty. Communicate with your child, your child’s teachers, and your child’s friends. The more you know about your child’s activities, the better able you will be to guide your child in making compassionate and humane choices. Something as serious as animal cruelty, however, should not be handled alone. Seek help from a family counselor, school counselor, pediatrician, or clergy member. If you know another child who has harmed an animal, report what you know immediately to your local animal welfare organization or police department. Alert the child’s school principal or guidance counselor.
WHAT SHOULD I TELL MY CHILD ABOUT THE OTHER CHILD’S BEHAVIOR?
Explain that animal abuse is often a sign of other serious problems and should be addressed by the proper authorities. Knowing that a friend has serious problems can be quite troubling for a child, as can witnessing animal cruelty. Your child may need to sort out the feelings the incident raises.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF AN OTHERWISE “GOOD” CHILD HARMS AN ANIMAL ONE TIME?
Though innocent exploration may be corrected simply by talking with the child, any time a child causes an animal pain or suffering you should be concerned. Talk to the child to determine if this was an act of innocence and naivety, or if there is something more serious going on. If you suspect that there are serious underlying issues, please inform the school counselor, the parents/guardians, or a teacher you feel comfortable talking with. Getting that child help, early on, can prevent future violence.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN INNOCENT EXPLORATION AND CALCULATED ANIMAL CRUELTY?
Innocent exploration may come of simple curiosity, but calculated animal cruelty is motivated by a desire to harm. While even innocent acts of cruelty should be addressed, it is particularly important to intervene when a child is insensitive to the obvious distress of an animal, repeats a harmful behavior, or derives pleasure from causing an animal pain.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN AUTHORITIES PROSECUTE AN ANIMAL CRUELTY CASE?
Appropriate sentencing can include individual or family counseling, community service, or diversion programs. It is rarely the goal of the authorities to imprison a child for cruelty to animals. Law enforcement officers and judges recognize that cruelty to animals is one part of a complex problem. Sometimes the official response to animal cruelty provides a family its first opportunity to get help.
CAN REPORTS BE MADE ANONYMOUSLY?
While many jurisdictions will respond to an anonymous complaint, successful prosecutions often depend on an identifiable witness who can authenticate evidence.
WILL I BE REQUIRED TO TESTIFY?
If a case goes to trial and you have identified yourself as the complainant in either a written or an oral report, you may be called to testify.
HOW CAN I TEACH MY CHILD TO RESPECT ANIMALS?
Teach by example; use real-life situations to instill a sense of respect for all life. Invite your child to help you feed the birds or rescue a bug. With older children, discuss animal cruelty cases publicized in the news. Encourage children to speak up for animals.
HOW CAN MY CHILD’S SCHOOL INCORPORATE HUMANE EDUCATION?
Humane education should be taken seriously as an educational standard. spcaLA offers DIY presentations that could help your child’s teacher incorporate humane ideas into your classroom. spcaLA also offers a comprehensive manual on our Teaching Love and Compassion (TLC)™ program, a program designed to teach empathy and compassion to at-risk youth. The manual includes history on the cycle of violence, budgetary needs, training schedules, daily activity schedules, staffing requirements and all components of implementing a TLC program from start to finish. The program is available for purchase for $450.00.
If you would like more information, please contact us via email or phone:
Violence Prevention & Humane Education Department