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Animal Abuse and Youth Violence

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2001
16 pages
This report describes psychiatric, psychological, and criminal research linking animal abuse to violence perpetrated by juveniles and adults, with emphasis on the prevalence of cruelty to animals by children and adolescents and on the role of animal abuse as a possible symptom of conduct disorder.
The analysis also examines the motivations and etiology underlying the maltreatment of animals. Results revealed that the prevalence of reported cruelty to animals was much higher among children referred to mental health clinics than among non-referred children, although the reliance on caretakers’ reports could be problematic. Research also indicated that animal abuse may be characteristic of the developmental histories of between one in four and nearly two in three violent adult offenders. A typology of juvenile animal abusers that would mirror that for juvenile firesetters would include exploratory and curious animal abuse, pathological animal abuse, and delinquent animal abuse. Factors in children’s lives that have been associated with increased levels of animal abuse range from negative but relatively normative experiences such as corporal punishment to potentially more devastating circumstances, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, and adult domestic assault. Policies and programs to address these issues involve reporting, assessment, and treatment of children involved in animal abuse, as well as enhanced professional training. The analysis concluded that although violence was multidimensional and multidetermined, animal abuse had received insufficient attention as a sentinel behavior that could help identify youth at risk for perpetrating interpersonal violence and youth who had themselves been victimized. Figures, photographs, and 88 references

Date Published: September 1, 2001