The Insidious Link Between Animal Cruelty And Violent Crimes Against Humans

August 18, 2021

By Deepti Govind

Historically, animal cruelty was considered an isolated issue — one that didn’t really harm the human population. As a result, perhaps, the process of recognizing animal cruelty as a serious violent offense in and of itself developed only slowly over time. But several recent studies have shown that there is a well-documented link between the two. Animal cruelty, research has found, can be a predictive or co-occurring crime along with violence against humans, especially intimate partners, children, and elders, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said in an article last week.

While the link does not hold true for all offenders, of course, it can serve as a precursor to progressively more violent offences, leading up to and including homicide. Studies of serial killers, mass killers, and school shooters have demonstrated that animal abuse is often a forerunner to these more heinous crimes, the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services and the National Sheriffs’ Association said in a report published in 2018.

Last month, for instance, Las Vegas reported a disturbing trend of several animals being abused and neglected. In one case, a woman found a dog mutilated, abused, killed, and left in a metal crate on the side of a street. The woman, Lisa Jagodzinski, said it was an image she will never get out of her head. In other cases over the last few months in the city, a dog was found with severe chemical burns, another was hung from a fence in the heat, and several animals have been left in hot cars and garages. As Jagodzinski put it to 8 News Now: “If somebody can harm a dog like that, what would they do to a human?”

The recent case of the star of the Netflix docu-series “Tiger King” is an example of this link. Jeff Lowe, a tiger breeder and ruthless zookeeper, and his wife Lauren were accused of violating the Endangered Species Act and Animal Welfare Act, and of “inhumane treatment” of their exotic animals. On Tuesday, Aug. 16, Lowe agreed to give up the rest of his animals to the DOJ. The zoo Lowe ran was previously managed by Joseph Maldonado-Passage (or Joe Exotic), and has a history of ill-treating its animals. However, what’s important to note is that the increase in both the owners’ cruelty towards animals and humans appears to have gone hand in hand.

After the Covid-19 pandemic, in particular, a spike in animal abuse cases has been reported across various countries including India, Kazakhstan, and the United Kingdom. There’s documented evidence of humans inflicting the worst horrors on animals, including sexually abusing and maiming them using instruments of torture. Humans have been species-agnostic when it comes to cases of animal cruelty, with reports of abuse involving everything from hedgehogs to swans, monkeys to big cats, and, of course, household pets like dogs and cats.

One of the worst cases of animal cruelty to come to light this year has been of people paying to “adopt” baby long-tailed macaques in Indonesia that are then subjected to brutal torture based on their “buyer’s” requests. An investigation by animal advocacy groups Action for Primates and Lady Freethinker found that people based in the U.S. had been setting up private group chats — including on Telegram — and forums to purchase and share these horrific videos. While the forum and Telegram chat have been taken down, in a report last week Vice said the abusive videos were still on YouTube and Facebook.

The videos show the baby monkeys being flayed, pierced, cut, beaten, and burned. One video even shows a monkey’s finger being cut off. The monkeys are captured on the Indonesian island of Java, and the people carrying out and filming the torture and abuse receive payments. Members of the group can pay for their “own private monkey” to be filmed while being tortured through their chosen method, or several members make smaller contributions towards a $150 fee for their “share” of a community monkey.

Those who share a community monkey can put in requests for acts of cruelty and torture to be inflicted on the shared monkey and decide how their monkey is to be killed, Action for Primates says. While U.S. and Indonesian law enforcement have been contacted about this particular ring, animal advocacy groups are not sure if this is just the tip of the iceberg, and wonder how many other people are out there on the internet doing the same thing.

Why does this matter in terms of violent crimes against human beings, or those that affect human lives in some manner? Here are some key statistics that speak to the link between the two, per the FBI article and other sources:

  • According to The Humane Society of the United States: A 2001-2004 study by the Chicago Police Department “revealed a startling propensity for offenders charged with crimes against animals to commit other violent offenses toward human victims.” Of those arrested for animal crimes, 65% had been arrested for battery against another person.
  • Of 36 convicted multiple murderers questioned in one study, 46% admitted committing acts of animal torture as adolescents. And of seven school shootings that took place across the country between 1997 and 2001, all involved boys who had previously committed acts of animal cruelty, the Humane Society adds on its website.
  • Seventy-five percent of abused women who have companion animals report a history of their companion animal being threatened or intentionally harmed by their intimate partner, with children being present and witnessing the violence over 90% of the time, one study showed. Pet abuse is one of four predictors of domestic partner violence, according to a six-year “gold standard” study conducted in 11 metropolitan cities, the Humane Society says.
  • Half of all children are exposed to animal cruelty at some point in their lives, other studies show.
  • Children who are exposed to interpersonal violence (IPV) at home are 60 times more likely to suffer emotional maltreatment and physical abuse or neglect. These circumstances place children at an increased risk of perpetuating the cycle of violence in the future due to desensitization and the belief that violence is an acceptable way to resolve interpersonal conflict.
  • A majority of IPV victims who report co-occurring animal cruelty are also concerned the abuser eventually will kill them and should be considered at extremely high risk of suffering severe injury or death.
  • Animal cruelty is a better predictor of sexual abuse than a history of homicide, arson, or even weapon convictions.
  • Another study found that the participants drawn to the thrill of animal fighting are axiomatically woven into the world of drugs, money laundering, illegal weapons, and illegal gambling. Nearly every dogfighting raid involves the discovery and seizure of illegal drugs, and two-thirds of the cases involve the seizure of illegal weapons. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has prosecuted various cases involving drug cartels trafficking narcotics though dogfighting and cockfighting enterprises.
    Biometrica wrote about dogfighting rings and their nexus with other crimes in June.
  • Researchers examined the demographic and criminal characteristics of 150 adult males arrested for animal cruelty. The mean age of the offenders included in the study was 37, with 41% arrested at least once for interpersonal violence, 18% for a sex offense, and 28% for different interpersonal crimes (e.g., violating a restraining order or harassment).
  • Studies showing the link between violence towards animals in childhood and aggressive behavior towards humans in adulthood are not new. Back in 1964, a paper by cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead found that across a range of cultures, extraordinary abuse of animals (e.g., torture, killing) by children may precede more violent acts by that individual as an adult. Mead argued that an act of cruelty towards an animal by a child could prove a diagnostic sign, and that such children, identified early, could be helped instead of being allowed to embark on a long career of episodic violence and murder.
  • It is estimated that animal abusers are five times more likely than non–animal abusers to commit violent crimes against people, four times more likely to commit property crimes, and three times more likely to have a record for drug or disorderly conduct offenses, according to a study. the DOJ cited in its 2018 report on animal cruelty.

Why should everyone from law enforcement to the community care about animal cruelty? We leave you with one self-explanatory quote from the Action for Primates animal advocacy group, listing yet another reason why animal cruelty matters, particularly given that the world is still reeling under the effects of a disease that is thought to have had a zoonotic source.

“As a veterinarian with many decades of experience, I have never witnessed the degree of sadism I have seen in these videos. What the people are doing to these infant monkeys is particularly vile and disturbing. No responsible company should tolerate the existence of such individuals and groups on their platforms, not only because of the appalling nature of the atrocities being inflicted upon non-human primates, but also because of the alarming implications for public health,” Dr Nedim Buyukmihci, veterinarian and co-founder of Action for Primates, said.