Animal Cruelty is a Gateway Crime to Mass Shootings

Prior to killing 17 people at a Parkland, FL high school earlier this year, Nikolas Cruz had tried to mutilate his neighbor’s pot-bellied pigs and crushed animals trapped in rabbit holes. Kip Kinkel, who in 1998 shot 27 students at an Oregon high school, had previously blown up cows and decapitated cats. A 2014 study found that between 1988 and 2012, 43 percent of school shooters had previously tortured animals.

Serial killers—including Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, and David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz—also had histories of abusing animals before they began killing humans. In fact, 70 percent of the most violent prisoners in several federal penitentiaries had repeatedly abused animals during their childhoods, according to Psychology Today.

The correlation between animal cruelty and violent crimes is nothing new, but for the first time, the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) has published an important report to help law enforcement agencies recognize this and take animal cruelty crimes more seriously.

Animal Cruelty as a Gateway Crime, published Nov. 8 along with an accompanying phone app, is the culmination of a project funded by COPS and undertaken by the National Sheriffs’ Association’s National Law Enforcement Center on Animal Abuse (NLECAA) and the National Coalition on Violence Against Animals (NCOVAA).

“It outlines the ways in which law enforcement practitioners’ maintaining awareness of animal cruelty — including by bridging the communication gap with their colleagues in animal control — can expose warning signs in homes of the possibility or likelihood that other crimes are imminent and may help anticipate and prevent those crimes before they are committed,” COPS Director Phil Keith said in a press release.

The Animal Cruelty as a Gateway Crime project began three years ago with the creation of the Animal Cruelty Advisory Group, made up of law enforcement officers, animal welfare advocates, prosecutors and judges. The group members “represented the largest animal advocacy groups in the country and experts on animal abuse and cruelty,” according to the National Sheriffs’ Association.

The group acknowledged the existing communication, awareness and education gaps between animal control and law enforcement. Among its conclusions was that law enforcement officers and deputies need to change their attitudes and give animal crimes the same attention and priority they give to personal and property crimes.

To further prevent animal cruelty crimes, humane education programs are currently available that teach children to be kind to animals. The Humane Society of the United States and other animal welfare organizations have been asking human services agencies to check for animal abuse during client assessments and recommending that children who abuse animals receive help to address the reasons why.

Take Action

Another way to help prevent animal cruelty would be to enact stronger federal anti-cruelty laws, like the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, the first-ever general animal cruelty bill that would allow the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies to crack down on these crimes. The bill was passed unanimously by the Senate but has since stalled in a House committee. More than 167,000 people have signed a Care2 petition urging Congress to pass it.

Stronger gun laws would also help save lives. Anyone with a criminal record that includes animal cruelty should not be allowed to purchase firearms. Please sign and share this petition urging Congress to pass a bill banning anyone convicted of violence against animals from ever owning guns.

You can download the Animal Cruelty as a Gateway Crime report from the COPS Resource Center. The phone app is available from iTunes and Google Play.

If you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. You’ll find Care2’s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.

 

Photo credit: Alexa_Fotos

93 comments

joan silaco
joan silaco21 days ago

thank you

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Nicole S
Nic Smith28 days ago

It's always been a worry of mine that if we don't have strong enough consequences and punishments in place for animal cruelty, that it sends the wrong message to would-be offenders (and also to our youngest generations) that our national attitudes accommodate a level of tolerance of animal cruelty, or that our societies' compassion for victims of violence is conditional. We must never allow ourselves to be sensitised to any kind of violence, and we must adjust our legal systems to demonstrate that cruelty and violence will not be tolerated, period. Making the consequences more tangible for people who hurt animals is a positive step.

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Renata K
Renata K29 days ago

Thank you for sharing,

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Renata K
Renata K29 days ago

Shame the law on Guns were ban for everyone.Thank you for sharing

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oliver mally
oliver mally29 days ago

signed!

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Kelsey S
Kelsey S29 days ago

Signed

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Danuta W
Danuta W29 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara29 days ago

th

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara29 days ago

so obvious

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Susan H
Susan H29 days ago

signed

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