Animal Cruelty, a Precursor to Human Violence
Stanton, Susan, The Florida Times Union
ORANGE PARK -- More than 60 people attending a forum on the connection between animal abuse and human violence at Orange Park Town Hall last week heard startling statistics and heart-wrenching stories.
They were there to learn about First Coast First Strike, a collaborative effort between law enforcement, social workers, animal-protection groups, prosecutors, judges and educators on the First Coast to increase awareness of the significance of and connection between animal cruelty and human violence.
Keynote speaker Laura Bevan, southeast regional director of the Humane Society of the United States, explained the goal of the Northeast Florida regional program is to break the cycle of violence and abuse. The program, which is part of the HSUS First Strike Campaign initiated in 1997, also strives to increase the cross-reporting of animal abuse and child abuse among the participants.
"I think the regional aspect of First Coast First Strike will be very effective," she said.
Bevan said the connection between animal abuse and human violence is well-documented. Studies show that animal abuse, including torturing animals, is often a precursor to extremely violent criminal behavior and should not be viewed as an isolated incident.
Some of the statistics she presented were chilling.
A history of animal abuse was found in 25% of aggressive male criminals, 30% of convicted child molesters, 36% of those who assaulted women and 46% of those convicted of sexual homicide. In three surveys of women's shelters in Wisconsin and Utah in the late 1990s, an average of 74% of pet-owning women reported that a pet had been threatened, injured or killed by their abusers.
A 1998 report by the Buffalo, N.Y., Police Department and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Erie County found that one-third of the homes with animal abuse complaints also had domestic violence complaints. Detective Mary Fagan, with the recently organized Domestic Violence Unit of the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, was one of several law enforcement officers attending the meeting.
"We see animal abuse in a lot of the [domestic violence] cases. This [program] really piqued our interest," she said.
Melissa Patterson has been a domestic advocate at Hubbard House, Jacksonville's domestic violence shelter, for more than three years. "It seems that in the worst cases of domestic violence there usually is some form of significant animal abuse," she said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has recognized the connection between animal cruelty and human violence since the 1970s, when its analysis of the lives of serial killers suggested most, as children, had killed or tortured animals. …