Taunting: Nothing Funny About It
Two weeks ago a local home was vandalized under cover of darkness by a group of young teens. That was bad enough, but the property crimes were accompanied by taunting of the owner’s three dogs: LeeLou, a Neapolitan Mastiff (145 pounds), Shadow, a Presa Canario (130 pounds), and Lajsci (La-chi),a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix (100+ pounds). Stupid and dangerous only begins to describe the situation. Let’s call it what it was: animal abuse.
Fortunately, these powerful dogs were under the exquisitely humane and total physical and voice command of the owner, who unseen by the young perps, witnessed everything from her porch. But what if that had not been the case? What if these fools, having already provoked the dogs, had decided to scale the fence and the dogs had done what dogs do, protected their owner and territory?
The owner reported the incident to the local police, but they appeared nonchalant about the dog-taunting aspect of the crime, which is surprising, since it has long been believed by members of humane law enforcement that people involved in animal abuse often commit other types of crimes as well. This belief was validated in a 1997 study (the first of its kind to examine the relationship between violence against animals and crime in general) done by Northeastern University and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA). In that study, professors Arnold Arluke and Jack Levin of Northeastern University and Carter Luke of the MSPCA looked at a number of cruelty cases prosecuted by the MSPCA between 1975 and 1996. Results revealed that 70 percent of those who committed crimes against animals had also been involved in other violent, property, drug, and disorderly crimes.
The Northeastern University-MSPCA study served to establish that an animal abuser is more often a potential danger to society and more likely to be involved in other crimes than had been previously recognized (www.mspca.org). The same study also concluded that a person who committed animal abuse was:
* 5 times more likely to commit violence against people
* 4 times more likely to commit property crimes, and
* 3 times more likely to be involved in drunken or disorderly offenses.
The FBI has recognized the connection since the 1970s, when its analysis of the lives of serial killers suggested that most had abused animals as children. “These are the kids who never learned it’s wrong to poke out a puppy’s eyes.” ( Robert K. Ressler, FBI Serial Killer Profiler). Other research has shown consistent patterns of animal cruelty among perpetrators of more common forms of violence, including child abuse, spouse abuse, and elder abuse. In fact, in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the American Psychiatric Association considers animal cruelty one of the diagnostic criteria of conduct disorder; clinical evidence indicates that animal cruelty is one of the symptoms usually seen at the earliest stages of conduct disorder, often by the age of eight.
Given the above research and all that we know now, when law enforcement fails to take animal abuse as seriously as property abuse, society is the loser. While the young vandals in this case appear to have gotten away with their petty crimes, as well as with their limbs, only time will tell if public safety has been well served by their escape.