Animal cruelty

POSTED: 11/25/12 8:20 PM

Animal cruelty encompasses a range of behaviors 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, mutilating, or killing an animal. All animal cruelty is a concern because it is wrong to inflict suffering on any living creature. Intentional cruelty is a particular concern because it is a sign of psychological distress and often indicates either that an individual has already experienced violence or may be predisposed to committing acts of violence.
There is evidence of a connection between animal cruelty and human violence. Many studies in psychology, sociology, and criminology during the last 25 years have demonstrated that violent offenders frequently have childhood and adolescent histories of serious and repeated animal cruelty. The FBI has recognized the connection since the 1970s, when its analysis of the lives of serial killers suggested most had, as children, killed or tortured animals. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association considers animal cruelty one of the diagnostic criteria of conduct disorder.
While some children kill insects, few torture pets or other small creatures. If allowed to harm animals without penalty, children are more likely to commit violent acts later in life. Children who abuse animals are generally involved in bullying, vandalism, and more serious crimes, including arson. Animal cruelty, like any other form of violence, should never be attributed to a stage of development. Rather, it should be considered a warning that a child may be experiencing some form of psychological–or physical–distress. 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. A child perpetrator may boast of harming an animal, either verbally or in a story; a child who has witnessed animal cruelty may recount an incident that took place at home or in the neighborhood.
Discuss your suspicions with the school principal and psychologist. Review the child’s behavior, including attendance, peer relations. A parent/ teacher/principal consultation is recommended before further action is taken. Like any other serious crime, animal cruelty should be reported to the police department. The child’s parents should be made aware of the necessity of such a report. According to the National Research Council, early prevention efforts are more likely to reduce adult crime than are criminal sanctions applied later in life.

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