Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Childhood cruelty to animals may signal violence in future

Very widely accepted now.


Childhood cruelty to animals may signal violence in future

Rosie Cowan, crime correspondent
Thursday August 11, 2005
The Guardian

Childhood cruelty to animals can be an early warning of a propensity for
violence against other people, a report published yesterday said.
The research wing of animal rights charity, Peta (People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals), has compiled a study of the links between severe
animal abuse by children who later committed acts of extreme violence - in
some cases, murder.

Several cases have been well documented. Thomas Hamilton, the Dunblane
killer, enjoyed shooting animals and squashing rabbits' heads beneath car
wheels as a youth. Robert Thompson, who was 10 years old when he and John
Venables killed two-year-old Jamie Bulger, pulled the heads off live

Article continues

David Mulcahy and John Duffy, the so-called Railway Rapists, who raped and
murdered three women and raped or assaulted 12 more in the 70s and 80s,
shared a teenage fascination with tormenting animals.
Peta, which has sent its report to the Crown Prosecution Service, MPs and
all UK police forces, believes there should be closer cooperation between
police and social services and organisations such as the RSPCA, so that
those at risk of becoming dangerous criminals can be spotted, and perhaps
helped, as early as possible.

The FBI, which already uses reports of animal abuse to analyse criminal
threat potential, has found a childhood history of cruelty to animals is
prevalent among many serial rapists and murderers.

Robert Ressler, founder of the FBI's behavioural sciences unit, said:
"These are the kids who never learned that it was wrong to poke a puppy's
eyes out." Alan Bradley, an FBI special agent, said: "Some offenders kill
animals as a rehearsal for targeting human victims and may kill or torture
animals because, to them, animals symbolically represent people."

The Peta study found abuse of pets in the home was often linked to
domestic violence, with adult perpetrators tormenting family pets, as well
as children and partners.

Peta's research found that some children in abusive homes copy the
abusers' behaviour. "Children in violent homes are characterised by
frequently participating in pecking-order battering, in which they maim or
kill an animal. Domestic violence is the most common background for
childhood cruelty to animals."

Scotland Yard's homicide prevention unit, set up last year to examine the
psychological profile of violent offenders in an effort to thwart future
crime, is also interested in the links between various patterns of

Laura Richards, a senior behavioural consultant with the unit, said there
was a definite link between domestic violence and stranger rape.

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