Animal Abuse is a Predictor of other Crimes, Including Domestic Abuse, Murder, Rape & More

Stats on animal abuse show a sharp correlation between animal abuse & other crimes, including rape, robbery, murder, sexual homicide, domestic abuse and more. E.G.: studies show 100% of sexual homicide perps (like Jeffrey Dahmer) started by abusing animals. Even cops, prosecutors & social workers say show me an animal abuser and I'll show you someone with a long rap sheet. Thus, we all need to get behind toughening laws for animal abuse to keep these violent perps locked up longer.

Animal Abuse Bill Requires Psychological Intervention, Recognizing the Animal Abuse to Other Crimes Connection

Animal abuse is like a crystal ball into the future of the abusers. Many people realize that animal abusers are likely to commit a host of other offenses, including murder, rape, and robbery, and a plethora of studies backs this up. Still, animal laws in most states, including New York, treat animals as chattel and animal abuse and neglect as mostly misdemeanor charges at most.

New York is typical, and New York’s animal abuse laws are mostly found in the Agriculture and Markets Laws (“AML”). In short, currently, the longest jail time for animal abuse is four years for promoting animal fighting, and two years for aggravated cruelty to a companion animal. “Companion animals” are defined under AML §350 as dogs, cats, and any other domesticated animals normally maintained in or near the home, and excludes most other animals, even horses (defined as “farm animals”). The top charge for abuse to other animals is only one year, and many cases of abuse and neglect are pled down to even less.

However, a bill sitting in NYS Congress’ Agriculture Committee, A8444 , recognizes the animal abuse to other crimes connection and, for the first time, requires psychiatric intervention for animal abusers, even juveniles. The bill, drafted in response to the Michael Vick and Chester Williamson (Buster’s Law) cases, raises some penalties under AML §353-a (“Aggravated Animal Cruelty”) , as well as AML §351 (“Prohibition of Animal Fighting”).

We are familiar with Michael Vick, who served little time for a host of vicious offenses, but the Williamson case is not as infamous. There, Williamson set Buster the cat on fire, killing Buster, yet served only one year. In response, AML §353-a (Buster’s Law) was passed, raising the maximum penalty for aggravated cruelty to a companion animal from a one-year misdemeanor to a two-year felony charge.

As the bill states in the “Justification” section: “Animal cruelty is viewed by experts as an indicator for future
violence against humans. Since his 1997 arrest that led to "Buster's Law," Chester Williamson has been imprisoned numerous times for crimes including Possession of Stolen Property and Attempted Burglary. In Fall 2007, his criminal path took a predictable turn with his arrest for attempted rape, sexual abuse, and unlawful imprisonment of a 12-year-old girl. Requiring early intervention in the form of psychiatric evaluation and treatment would be another tool in the attempt to modify behavior patterns to halt this pattern for escalating abuse”.

The bill would require that any person convicted of or adjudicated a youthful offender of Aggravated Cruelty to Animals undergo a psychiatric evaluation by a qualified mental health professional and “may require that such person, at his/her own expense, enter and complete any treatment program necessary to treat the person’s mental defect, mental disease, or mental condition”. This mental evaluation and treatment clause was never mentioned in any of the AML laws before so this is a start, even though it was not included elsewhere in the bill (for instance, in the animal fighting section), nor does the bill increase penalties for other forms of animal abuse and neglect and does not increase penalties as significantly as many people believe it should in order to be effective enough in theory as well as application.

The statistics supporting the animal abuse to other crimes connection are overwhelming. For instance, in one twenty-year study, 70% of animal abusers committed other crimes, and 44% went on to harm people. In another recent study, 99% of animal abusers had convictions for other crimes, 100% of people who committed sexual homicide (like Jeffrey Dahmer) had abused animals, and 61.5% of animal abusers had assaulted a human as well. A 1997 study showed that when comparing 153 animal abusers to neighbors of similar age and gender, animal abusers were five times more likely to be arrested for violent crimes, three times more likely to commit drug-related crimes, even three times more likely to get traffic tickets.

Many people already know that animal abusers go on to abuse others in their household. There are many statistics out there as well but to summarize, 80-90% of victims of domestic abuse state that their abuser started by abusing pets. Then, an additional vicious cycle often begins because the abused kids, at least 1/3 of the time, according to various studies, abuse animals themselves.

While A8444 should dramatically increase penalties for all forms of animal abuse and neglect for all definitions of animals, it is a good start in helping to curtail animal abuse, punish offenders, and help stop, or at least slow down, animal abusers from going on to commit more crimes. Let’s hope it gets passed soon.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carol Eileen Ryder
Carol Ryder is a solo practitioner in Fort Salonga, New York (north shore of Long Island) with a general practice but focusing on elder law, wills, trusts, estates, guardianships, disability law, veteran’s benefits, and Medicaid planning. She is also a member of the Suffolk County Bar Association’s Elder Law Committee. A 2008 Touro Law graduate, she previously worked in the financial services industry, including on Wall Street, in the fields of investment management, investment banking, and investment software design and quality assurance. She also has been active in the animal rescue and pet therapy fields (at senior citizen facilities) for over a decade.

Copyright The Law Office of Carol Ryder, P.C.
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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