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Cruelty to Animals


Cruelty to Animals - Acts of Cruelty to Animals have been statistically discovered to occur more often in people who suffer from personality disorders than in the general population.

Hurting the voiceless:

There are two categories of animal cruelty:

  1. Passive Animal Cruelty occurs when lack of action causes harm to an animal, such as  starvation, dehydration, neglect of necessary veterinary care for disease, parasite infestation or injury, or denial of shelter from extreme heat or cold. Many cases of animal neglect result from owner ignorance or error, and owner education is often an adequate remedy. In extreme cases or where willful neglect occurs, animals may to be removed from the owner by law enforcement.
  2. Active Animal Cruelty involves cases where an individual knowingly, intentionally or directly performs an action that causes harm or Non-Accidental Injury (NAI) to an animal.

According to a 2002 study, there is a link between animal cruelty and Personality Disorders. In the study, 75% of a group of criminal defendants who had committed acts of animal cruelty met the criteria for a Personality Disorder type (antisocial, borderline, schizotypal, paranoid, mixed). Only 27% of a control group met the criteria for a Personality Disorder. This is a statistically significant difference.

Source: Psychiatric News Vol 37 #18: Researchers Explore Link Between Animal Cruelty, Personality Disorders

The following is quoted from statistics published online by the American Humane Association:

  • 71% of pet-owning women entering women’s shelters reported that their batterer had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control victims; 32% reported their children had hurt or killed animals.
  • 68% of battered women reported violence towards their animals. 87% of these incidents occurred in the presence of the women, and 75% in the presence of the children, to psychologically control and coerce them.
  • 13% of intentional animal abuse cases involve domestic violence.
  • Between 25% and 40% of battered women are unable to escape abusive situations because they worry about what will happen to their pets or livestock should they leave.
  • Pets may suffer unexplained injuries, health problems, permanent disabilities at the hands of abusers, or disappear from home.
  • Abusers kill, harm, or threaten children’s pets to coerce them into sexual abuse or to force them to remain silent about abuse. Disturbed children kill or harm animals to emulate their parents’ conduct, to prevent the abuser from killing the pet, or to take out their aggressions on another victim.
  • In one study, 70% of animal abusers also had records for other crimes. Domestic violence victims whose animals were abused saw the animal cruelty as one more violent episode in a long history of indiscriminate violence aimed at them and their vulnerability.
  • Investigation of animal abuse is often the first point of social services intervention for a family in trouble.
  • For many battered women, pets are sources of comfort providing strong emotional support: 98% of Americans consider pets to be companions or members of the family.
  • Animal cruelty problems are people problems. When animals are abused, people are at risk.

Source: American Humane Association Facts about Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence

According the Humane Society of the United States 2003 Animal Cruelty Report, in a sample of the largest domestic violence shelters in the US, 91% of adult victims and 73% of child victims describe animal cruelty as having occurred in the home. The report offers the following motivations for perpetrators of domestic violence to also commit acts of abuse toward family pets, livestock and animals:

  • To demonstrate and confirm power and control over the family
  • To isolate the victim and children
  • To force the family to keep violence a secret
  • To perpetuate the context of terror
  • To prevent the victim from leaving or coerce her/him to return
  • To punish the victim for leaving
  • To degrade the victim through involvement in the abuse

Source: Humane Society of the United States 2003 Animal Cruelty Report


  • Injury inflicted by beating, throwing, kicking or punching.
  • Death or injury inflicted by stabbing, shooting, drowning, poisoning, burning
  • Torture through mutilation, experimentation
  • Neglect through starvation, exposure to extreme environment or lack of veterinary care.

What it feels like:

Acts of violence or neglect toward animals are a form of extreme emotional abuse or intimidation which creates great fear for bystanders, especially dependent children or partners.

What NOT to Do:

  • Do not confront an adult perpetrator without backup.
  • Do not ignore acts of cruelty.
  • Do not bring more animals into the home while animal cruelty is an issue.

What TO Do:

  • Take the animal to a vet, if you cannot afford a vet, contact an animal shelter for help.
  • Report the perpetrator to the appropriate authorities.
  • Make plans to get yourself and any children to safety.
  • If the perpetrator is a child, get some counseling support for them. Their behavior may be the result of being abused themselves.

Related Personality Disorders:

Paranoid, Schizotypal, Antisocial, Borderline, Narcissistic


2002 study published in Psychiatric News

Humane Society of the United States 2003 Animal Cruelty Report

American Humane Association Facts About Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence


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