Abuse to animals is a horrible crime that ultimately touches us all, both as a society and as individuals. It is a documented fact that many serial killers began their life of violent crime by abusing animals. The evidence is in - it can no longer be denied: There is a connection between animal abuse and violent acts against humans such as domestic violence, elder abuse, child abuse and murder.
Recent research has indicated that animal abuse and other forms of family violence often co-occur. Further, a child's violence towards animals is an indicator of potential future violence towards people Given these links, human and animal welfare organizations are beginning to work together to better detect and prevent violence towards both animals and people. In some parts of the U.S. these initiatives have been incorporated into the legal framework.
Partello (1997) found that pets fill a variety of human needs, from acting as child substitutes, to providing companionship and unconditional love. These companion animals no longer live in barns and kennels but are an integral part of the human family. Ironically, this means that they suffer at the hands of abusers, just as children do. In a study by DeViney, Dickert, and Lockwood (1983) it was found that companion animals were abused in 88% of the families in which children were abused. Because abuse of animals by children invariably signals great distress, parents and other significant adults need to be informed that certain forms and/or patterns of cruelty should not be dismissed as typical childhood actions.
You will note that cruelty to animals can be a sign of conduct disorder, and hurting animals is considered one of the earliest reported symptoms. A child's cruelty toward another animal can be an attempt to gain control over a creature that is smaller and weaker and may be the only way the child can feel powerful. It may reflect a desire to inflict pain or be a displacement of hostility. A child experiencing brutalization may also act on it towards animals.
It is imperative that social workers, teachers, administrators, and psychologists become aware of animal abuse and its relationship to human violence so that they can design appropriate prevention and intervention programs. Primary prevention may focus on educational programs that protect children with clear guidelines for acceptable behavior with
animals. Because abuse of animals by children invariably signals great distress, parents and
other significant adults need to be informed that certain forms and/or patterns of cruelty should
not be dismissed as typical childhood actions.
I. Animal Abuse Expands into Human Abuse
Carpenter (2006) for those