All recounted animal torture as their first violent act.
Animal abuse is often the first sign of serious disturbance among adolescent and adult killers.
When counselors at several federal penitentiaries evaluated inmates for levels of aggression, 70% of the most violent prisoners had serious and repeated animal abuse in their childhood histories.
Troubled children are much more likely to mistreat animals. While less than 5% of U. S. children are estimated to have intentionally hurt an animal, for children at mental health clinics, animal cruelty rates range from 10 to 25%. Prof. Frank Ascione at the University of Denver and Prof. Arnold Arluke at Northeastern University estimate that one in four children and adolescents with conduct disorder have abused animals. Children who have been physically abused and exposed to domestic violence are at even higher risk. In an assessment of 1433 children ages 6 to 12, Ascione found that among abused children, 60% had abused animals.
Improving diagnosis. Mental health professionals seldom ask routinely about animal abuse. Increasing awareness of the need to do so can pick up early indications of the problem.
Cross reporting. Since animal abuse and domestic violence are linked, child protective services and animal welfare groups are training together to recognize and report both human and animal victims.
Ensuring treatment. Several states are mandating evaluation and counseling for individuals convicted of animal abuse.
When we keep animals safe from harm, we also help keep children and adults safe.