Essay 4 picture


Aren’t Animals Victims Too?

            When you hear the word victim who do you automatically think of? These days normally some of the first things that come to mind are the children and teachers in the latest school shooting or the woman in the film industry that finally came forward about the sexual abuse she endured a few years back. But do you ever think about animals as victims? Animals have become the forgotten victims of today’s society. What have they done to deserve this? The answer is absolutely nothing. It is impossible to have exact numbers of how many animal abuse cases there are because there are so many different fields of animal cruelty such as hoarding, bestiality, starvation, kicking, striking, etc.

Animal abuse is generally defined as intentional behavior that causes pain, suffering or death of an animal (Ascione & Shapiro, 570); bestiality and negligence are usually included. When animal cruelty is brought to public attention, people search for the best options to deal with such events. Tips on recognition of animal cruelty can be easily found with a quick online search. Additionally, legislation criminalizing this behavior already exists on a state by state basis, but these do nothing to prevent the problem. Early detection and treatment for those who are inclined toward these actions of animal abuse should be the first step.

Since late 19th century every state has added to its own anti-cruelty statute. Most states rely on the same concept of animal cruelty in current legislation, more commonly human actions that inflict pain or suffering on any non-human animal. Each state’s anti-cruelty law has different definitions of “animal” adopted in their laws. For example, California’s anti- cruelty law states that its requirements apply to “any mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian or fish” (California Penal Code 2014). As a result, any violation of this law allows for a misdemeanor or felony charge with or without a fine up to $20,000. More than 50% of state statues also include in anti-cruelty legislation a requirement for counseling as part of sentencing; the convicted party is responsible for the costs of such therapies. While legislation is vital and necessary for the criminalizing of animal abuse, laws do nothing to prevent this behavior.

Only recently has there been scientific study of animal abuse by people, beginning in the 1970s. The psychiatric community has been researching animal cruelty as a predictor of future human aggression and impersonal violence. Since that time studies have been conducted suggesting that childhood animal cruelty predicts future interpersonal violence (Holoyda and Newman 134). In 2000, animal abuse became a sign of conduct disorder according to the American Psychiatric Association. This information then led to studies in youths as a subtype of conduct disorder. Behavior of those with conduct disorder also often includes setting fires, bullying, and forced sex (Ascione and Shapiro 573).

Conduct disorder is defined as children or adolescents that have a range of antisocial behavior. It has been shown that children diagnosed with conduct disorder often have a history of abuse.  Physically and sexually abused children are more likely to become abusers of animals themselves (Boat et al. 813). Children known to have conduct disorder are twice as likely to have been sexually abused themselves; this relationship is consistent and documented (Boat et al. 817). Children with conduct disorders are not the only individuals that show abusive behaviors. Conduct disorder is recognized as a prerequisite for the diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD) in adults; Gleyzer et al discuss a significant relationship in the article Animal Cruelty and Psychiatric Disorders (260).  Reef et al also discuss conduct disorders, noting that conduct problems are predictive of future disruptive disorders for up to 24 years (1121). Predictive behaviors linked to animal cruelty and a pattern of events that can lead to conduct disorders make recognition of high risk individuals easily accomplished.

If the potential for animal cruelty is identified, there are services already available that could serve as a framework for prevention strategies. Programs currently available are designed to work with at risk youth that vary in intensity and duration. Examples of these programs include:

  • Forget-Me-not farm provides an after school program specifically for at risk children and families in violent communities, were participants are taught the responsible care of animals (Ascione and Shapiro 580).
  • PAL (People and Animals Learning) is a day camp for at risk youth that allows youth to gain life experience while working in animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centers (Ascione and Shapiro 580).
  • Project Second Chance teaches compassion, gentleness and accountability by pairing adolescents with shelter dogs, while also fostering healthy social interaction. An increase in higher adoption rates was also seen (Ascione and Shapiro 580).
  • Anicare and Anicare Child are outpatient programs aimed at families already identified with having a history of animal abuse. These families do not include those who have already been diagnosed with major psychotic disorders and offer cognitive and behavioral therapies; children are better able to empathize with animals and create health attachments (Ascione and Shapiro 582).
  • Green Chimneys is a live in program for disturbed children that include those who abuse animals. Children live at a working farm for a period of time; individual and group therapies are offered in addition to other activities (Ascione and Shapiro 582).

Many of these types of programs are products of networks established with various human service, criminal justice, educational, and humane societies and shelters (Ascione and Shapiro 580).  Even with programs like these, and with the availability of mental healthcare, only approximately 50% of children and adolescents with mental disorders will get treatment.  Although conduct disorders represent only 2.1 percent of disorders overall, this shows a significant lack of treatment that could serve as prevention toward animal cruelty as a whole.

To break the cycle of animal directed violence and impact the prevention of animal cruelty it is important to address the complex nature of abusive home environments where cruelty to animals is occurring. These events are often predicated by various types of abuse in future offenders, and recognition of abuse in children and of other key behaviors by these children is vital to prevent future animal cruelty. While society is primed act on behalf of abused animals with legalistic activity, very little has been accomplished to truly address the problem.



Ascione, Frank R. and Kenneth Shapiro. “People and Animals, Kindness and Cruelty: Research Directions and Policy Implications.” Journal of Social Issues, vol. 65, no. 3, Sept. 2009, pp. 569-587. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.2009.01614.x.

This article “People and Animals, Kindness and Cruelty: Research Directions and Policy Implications” gives many examples in ways to prevent childhood conduct disorders and as a symptom of that animal cruelty. Examples include education, at-risk populations, and intervention and treatment; terms and definitions are provided. This article provides the framework for my purposed solution/prevention of animal cruelty.  This is a scholarly published literature review that provides expert conclusions.


Boat, Barbara W., et al. “Childhood Cruelty to Animals: Psychiatric and Demographic Correlates.” Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, vol. 20, no. 7, Oct. 2011, pp. 812-819. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/10926771.2011.610773.

This article, “Childhood Cruelty to Animals: Psychiatric and Demographic Correlates.” focuses on the data that supports the correlation between animal cruelty and mental illness in children. The article finds that children who perpetrate cruelty to animals are at risk for further conduct- disordered behavior. I am using the data and paraphrasing some of the conclusions to support my argument. This source is credible because it is a retrospective study that is published in a scholarly journal.


Gleyzer, Roman M.D., et al. “Animal Cruelty and Psychiatric Disorders.” Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry & the Law, vol. 30, no. 2, 2002, pp. 257-265. EBSCOhost,

“Animal Cruelty and Psychiatric Disorders” is a retrospective study that examines psychiatric disorders and animal cruelty. Animal cruelty is one of several antisocial behaviors related to conduct disorders in childhood. I am using this article to support the argument that correlates animal cruelty and psychiatric disorders.  This source is credible because it is a retrospective study that is published in a scholarly journal.


Holoyda, Brian J. and William J. Newman. “Childhood Animal Cruelty, Bestiality, and the Link to Adult Interpersonal Violence.” International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, vol. 47, Jul-Aug, 2016, pp. 129-135. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.ijlp.2016.02.017.

Review of this article provided information about the history of animal protection laws, current California law and the link to psychiatric interest into animal cruelty. Holoyda and Newman draw a link between childhood animal cruelty and future violence. I am using this article to support the need for prevention of childhood animal cruelty. This is a scholarly published article written by professors of psychiatry at UC Davis School of Medicine and Saint Louis University School of Medicine

Merikangas, Kathleen Ries. “Prevelence and Treatment of Mental Disorders Among Us Children in the 2001-2004 NHANES.” Pediatrics,vol.125,no.1, 2010, pp. 75-81. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1542/peds.2008-2598.

This cross sectional survey shows how many children got treatments for specific mental disorders. This is the first step in creating a national database for mental health in children and teenagers. I used it to show that children with conduct disorders are not getting the treatment that they need. This source is credible because it is a cross sectional survey conducted by mental health professionals, published in a scholarly journal, and referenced in the National Institute of Health.

Reef, Joni, et al. “Children’s Problems Predict Adults’ “DSM-IV” Disorders across 24 Years.” Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, vol. 49, no. 11, 01 Nov. 2010, pp. 1117-1124. EBSCOhost,

Mood disorders are predicted by conduct problems in children. The same children are at high risk for DSM-IV diagnoses as adults. Disruptive disorders are predicted for up to 24 years. This will support my idea that identifying and treating conduct problems in children will help alleviate the issue of animal cruelty. This article was a research study by experts in child and adolescent psychiatry.