Year Long Study On Animal Cruelty Released

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), as part of its First Strike Campaign, has released the findings of a yearlong study on animal cruelty in the United States. Results from the study show an extremely high number of intentional cruelty cases were committed by male teens under the age of eighteen. The research also shows that a large number of cases of intentional animal cruelty also involved some form of family violence whether domestic violence, child abuse or elder abuse.

The HSUS released this information in recognition of the first annual Animal Cruelty/Human Violence Awareness Week, which was April 15-21. The HSUS is the first organization to conduct a national study examining the prevalence of human violence as it relates to animal cruelty incidents. The HSUS seeks to turn the nation's attention to the connection between abuse towards animals and violence towards people, which as the study reveals, is a clear and present problem in our society today.

The HSUS compiled information from more than 1600 high-profile animal cruelty cases nationwide that occurred between January and December 2000. Reports came from well-documented sources such as media reports and local humane societies. Of these cases, more than 900 involved intentional violence toward animals. The balance consisted of animal cruelty that resulted from neglect. Among the findings:

  • 94% of intentional animal cruelty incidents were committed by males.
  • 31% of the animal cruelty incidents were committed by perpetrators age 18 and younger. (Four percent of those were under age 12).
  • 21% of intentional animal cruelty cases also involved family violence.
  • Of all the animals abused in these cases, 76% of the cases involved companion animals, 12%, 7% wildlife, and 5% involved multiple types of animals. In 63% of all cases, animals were killed as a result of violence or euthanized due to extensive injuries.

"The high percentage of male teenagers perpetrating intentional acts of cruelty against animals, and the large number of cruelty cases in which animal cruelty and family violence coexisted, should be a red flag to anyone concerned about reducing violence in our society," said Claire Ponder, HSUS First Strike Campaign Manager. "You don't have to be an animal lover to see that animal cruelty is a warning sign that an individual could be involved in other violent crimes and could pose a risk to family members as well as the larger community. Our best hope for preventing violence against both animals and people is early identification and intervention with violent perpetrators."

The First Strike Campaign is an educational initiative launched in 1997 to increase public and professional awareness of the connection between animal cruelty and human violence and to encourage professionals involved in antiviolence to work together towards solutions.

Many criminals in this country, from the young school shooters to the most notorious serial killers, have had a history of cruelty to animals before turning their violence onto people. Intervening early with a child who is abusing animals can help prevent violent behavior from escalating. Tackling animal cruelty usually involves a multitude of resources including social workers, mental health and law enforcement experts, and animal care and control professionals, to address the associated problems with animal cruelty.

More and more lawmakers across the country are cracking down on animal cruelty through state and local laws. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia have adopted felony-level animal anti-cruelty laws, the majority having passed in the last few years. Several states have passed laws mandating psychological evaluation and counseling for convicted animal abuses. This year, 18 states are working on felony cruelty legislation and improving provisions within current felony cruelty laws. Five states, Arizona, Florida, South Carolina, Virginia and Massachusetts, have introduced bills that mandate cross reporting between animal control officers and child protective services.

For more information on Animal Cruelty/Human Violence Awareness Week, including case updates and profiles on organizations making a difference in their communities, go to The HSUS First Strike Web site at The 2000 Report of Animal Cruelty Cases is available in detail on the HSUS Web site.

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