Animal Abuse and Other Crimes

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Statistics show a strong correlation between animal abuse and the commission of other crimes. Recognizing this connection, some proponents push for harsher penalties and interventions.

While legislatures are hesitant to punish a person partially for the potential crimes that have not yet been committed, some statistics show that it is almost inevitable for a person who abuses animals to commit other crimes.

Statistical Data

Studies show that there is a connection between animal abuse and crimes such as rape, sexual homicide, domestic abuse and robbery. Notorious serial killers often have a history of animal abuse. One 21-year study found that 70 percent of animal abusers later went on to commit other crimes. The study also found that 100 percent of individuals who had committed sexual homicide had a history of animal abuse. About two-thirds of animal abusers also assaulted a person.

Another study showed that individuals who abused animals were 500 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime and 300 percent more likely to commit crimes related to drugs when compared to individuals who lived in the same area and who were the same age and gender.

Animal abuse often leads to abuse of others in the same household. Approximately 80 to 90 percent of victims of domestic violence say that their abusers started to abuse pets before they abused their later victims. Unfortunately, this often establishes a negative cycle of abuse because approximately one-third of abused children wind up abusing animals themselves.

Professional Observation

Likewise, many police officers, social workers and prosecutors also report that they have seen a connection between a history of animal abuse and the ability to predict violent crimes in the future.

Predictive Features

Animal abuse can often help predict the potential for a person to commit crimes in the future, including very serious and violent crimes.

Animal Abuse Laws

Many states do not provide for significant penalties for animal abuse crimes. This is because most states treat animal as property. Therefore, most animal abuse or neglect only holds the potential for a misdemeanor charge, which usually carries a maximum jail sentence of one year or less.

Due to the prevalence of certain crimes, some states have started taking animal abuse more seriously. For example, animal fighting often carries more serious charges. Additionally, animals that are considered companion animals may cause the crime to be elevated to a more serious degree. There may be other factors that cause the crime to be considered “aggravated” and therefore more serious.

Psychiatric Intervention

Some states have considered passing laws that would require individuals convicted of animal abuse to undergo psychiatric intervention as a condition of their release. This treatment would include early intervention steps including evaluation and treatment. The attempt would be to modify the behavior of the offender in order to deter the offender from establishing a pattern of escalating abuse.

Bills of this nature may focus on juvenile offenders and require them to be evaluated by a qualified mental health professional. While some bills provide for this expense, others may impose the expense on the offender.

Other Movements

Rather than focus on intervening in cases involving animal abuse, some states are focusing more on keeping animal abuse offenders locked up for longer periods of time so that they are removed from the streets and from the ability to abuse other people. Some proponents ask that all animal abuse laws be tightened and treated more harshly while others want to pass laws that impose harsher penalties while also including provisions for psychiatric treatment.


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.

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