Paws Up!

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Animals have lived alongside humans for a very long time, although they aren’t in their more aggressive, hunting nature, they’ve settled down and became the recipients of soft pats on the body and continuous love. So why do people hurt them? What does this violence mean? It’s been proven that this violence leads to even greater violence later on, and this is why animal cruelty needs to be focused.

Animal abuse, according to the legal dictionary, is defined as: “the crime of inflicting physical pain, suffering or death on an animal, usually a tame one, beyond necessity for normal discipline. It can include neglect that is so monstrous (withholding food and water) that the animals has suffered, died or been put in imminent danger of death”(legaldictionary). Animal cruelty has different punishments throughout the world and America’s animal cruelty laws are strong, but it’s something that isn’t talked much on the news, which could lead people to believe that it isn’t important and it’s okay.

According to D Sharon Pruitt in an article on PETA.org called, “Only Sociopaths Intentionally Hurt Animals: A Professional View”, “An individual who is able to engage in cruelty to animals appears to have no conscience and thus no remorse for his or her behavior. The act of cruelty to animals results from an apparent need for power and control, and this is accompanied by a lack of empathy”(PETA 1). Animal abuse isn’t as straightforward as it’s said, but the need for power or the lack of empathy are main ideas when it comes to breaking down why these things happen. It’s just like serial killers, murderers, or rapists, it’s easy to say that they are mentally ill, which at times can be true, but there is possibly so much more behind it. And understanding these things and trying to make these things better could ultimately save many people from committing bigger crimes.

“A 2001–2004 study by the Chicago Police Department “revealed a startling propensity for offenders charged with crimes against animals to commit other violent offenses toward human victims. Of those arrested for animal crimes, 65% had been arrested for battery against another person”(HSUS 1). According to this study a majority of people arrested for animal crimes also committed a much bigger crime, showing a clear indication that crimes considered more important than animal cruelty in our time could indicate much more. For example, “A year old pit bull named Honey survived being shot point blank in the mouth by her owner’s ex-boyfriend during an argument at her Brooklyn apartment in New York City […] He kept repeating, ‘You don’t love me like I love you,’ and telling me that I was stupid and disrespectful […] After hitting me and making me bleed he called in my dog, and shot her straight in the mouth”(Tan). This is one of many countless stories of animal abuse that is also linked to domestic abuse, showing a very clear link to domestic abuse and animal abuse. According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund(ALDF), “Many victims entering shelters report that their abuser has hurt, killed, or threatened family animals. About a third report their children have harmed animals. Victims often admit an animal is being abused before they admit their own suffering. Animal cruelty investigations frequently unravel chronic domestic abuse”(ALDF). With domestic abuse being linked to animal abuse, looking at different animal abuse cases deeply could potentially save both animal and human lives. Although animal abuse needs to happen in order for these lives to be saved, it’ll stop more crime from happening, and it’ll bring more of an awareness to the animal abuse issue.

Aside from animal cruelty being done in adults it’s important for it to be monitored and focused on as children and adolescents as well. For example, according to Gail F. Melson’s article, “Do Mass Killers Start Out by Harming Pets?”, “Animal abuse is often the first sign of serious disturbance among adolescent and adult killers […] fifteen year old Kip Kinkel shot his parents to death before emptying three guns at his classmates in Thurston High School […] Kip had often bragged to others at school how he tortured animals”(Melson 4). Many other stories follow the same as Kip’s, and there’s usually the conclusion of mental illness but education on these things need to be focused on as well. For example, “Participants in our study were 137 pupils […] Aged 9–16 years […] In the instructions, we had specified that “[…] are are not interested, for now, in your experiences with these animals […] Most of their questions focused on the meaning of animal abuse. […] Some of these are related to the most controversial aspects of the problem of the definition of animal cruelty […]“Many respondents in our study, as well as in other studies, reported committing animal cruelty “for fun” or because it was “exciting” and they were bored”(Pagani, Ascione, Robustelli 5–6 & 14). This shows that animal cruelty needs to be better defined in terms of specifics, things like neglect, intentional abuse, etc need to be communicated at an early age. The lack of empathy and regret comes from a lack of knowledge that animals are living creatures just like we are, and although there might not necessarily be any bad intentions behind it, it gives a false sense that what they’re doing is okay which will cause them to keep doing these things and take it to a grander scale.

Sadly, things like animal abuse have been happening for a very long time but on the bright side it has been getting much better. Different associations like The Humane Society, Animal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and many more aim to bringing awareness to animal rights and educating about animal cruelty. Animals have also started to be incorporated into everyday life, different things like guide dogs, dogs for PTSD patients, cat cafes, etc. help incorporate many animals(some from shelters) to help and comfort many different people.

This may not have been the “in the arms of an angel” commercial that show the sad animals behind cages with a black and white filter it’s message is still the same. Although animals may not be a majority of our lives, we’re an animal’s whole life, they live to love us and which is why we need to reciprocate that same thought. Regardless of whether or not we see them as equal to us, animal cruelty shows a clear link to bigger crime, giving us a greater reason to focus on this topic.