Childhood Animal Cruelty Indicator For Violent Offenders
This news article describes a study conducted by University of South Florida professor Kathleen Heide and animal welfare expert Linda Merz-Perez, which indicates that animal abuse during childhood serves as a “red flag.” Providing both quantitative and qualitative analysis of the correlation between childhood animal cruelty and adult violent behavior, the results are published in the book Animal Cruelty: Pathway to Violence Against People.
Research was carried out among a randomly selected sample of approximately 100 violent and non-violent male inmates at a maximum-security facility. According to author Heide, “The violent offenders, in sharp contrast to the non-violent offenders, were far more likely as children to have committed extreme acts of abuse against a family pet or neighborhood animals-acts that the average person would find abhorrent and somewhat gruesome.”
The researchers also found that “the incidence of child abuse and neglect in the two samples was high. What set the violent offenders apart from the non-violent offenders was not their histories of child abuse. Rather, it was their experiences mistreating animals as children. In addition to being significantly more likely than non-violent offenders to have abused pet and stray animals, violent offenders also showed a tendency toward abuse of wild and farm animals.”
These results indicate that early intervention following an act of animal cruelty is important to ensure that adolescents do not continue violent behavior in adulthood.