Webinar Notes: Partners in Crime

Webinar Focus (0:20)

  • Provide greater awareness and understanding on the link of animal abuse to human abuse including child abuse and domestic violence.


Resource Speakers (00:52)

  • John Thompson


    • Deputy Executive Director and COO, National Sheriff Association
    • Came from a military and law enforcement background.
    • Led the movement that established the National Coalition on Violence Against Animals.
    • Led the development of the National Law Enforcement Center on Animal Abuse


Overview (03:35)

  • There is an existing problem that law enforcement is not addressing


    • When animals are abused, people are at risk; When people are abused, animals are at risk.”
  • Opportunities to solve crime were lost because of disinterest in pursuing animal abuse cases.


    • A young lady’s body dumped in the well with other animals killed
  • A personal story of bonding with their family's dog and an article her daughter wrote about the link between serial killers and animal abusers.


    • Further research supported this correlation which he then presented to the National Sheriff Association Board.


The Link (11:21)

  • Animal abuse rarely occurs in a vacuum: usually, the tip of the iceberg and indicates or predicts other issues.


    • Venn Diagram illustrating the intersections between animal abuse, child maltreatment, elder abuse and domestic violence.
  • Overwhelming scientific research demonstrates the close relationship between animal cruelty and other types of crimes, including interpersonal violence, property crimes, and drug offenses.


    • Association reveals that people who commit acts of cruelty towards animals rarely stop there. Such cruelty is often a marker of a perpetrator with a higher tendency toward violence.
  • Animal abuse is a crime – On March 14, 2014, South Dakota became the final state to enact a felony provision for animal cruelty.


    • Animal abuse often indicates or predicts other issues.
    • Animal abuse is NOT a normal rite of passage of delinquent children.
    • We can no longer excuse it by saying “It was only a squirrel” or “boys will be boys.”
    • Untreated, animal abuse can escalate in severity and incidence against humans.


Why Are Pets Important (14:41)

  • Pets are common denominators in the lives of most families – and virtually all children


    • More American homes have pets than have children.
    • We spend more money on pet food than on baby food.
    • Pets are found in 2/3 of homes with children under age 6 and ¾ of homes with children over age 6.
    • There are more dogs in the US than there are people in most countries in Europe… and more cats than dogs!
    • A child is more likely to grow up with pets than with a father who lives at home.
  • How We View Pets Has Changed Dramatically


    • 99% of Americans consider pets “family members” or “companions.”
    • Survivors of disasters will not evacuate unless provisions are made for their pets.
    • PETS Act of 2006 (Pet Evacuation & Transportation Standards): Counties must have pet evacuation plans in order to receive FEMA $$.


Why Should Animal Abuse be Taken Seriously by Law Enforcement? (17:33)

  • Reasons


    • Animal abuse inflicts pain and suffering on human and animal victims.
    • If law enforcement can Identify people engaging in animal abuse crimes they may be able to protect innocent people and make their community safer.
    • Most serial killers have admitted that torturing animals was their first time they realized that they liked to hurt people.
  • Case Studies


    • California – Alexander Hernandez case


      • Alexander arrested for animal abuse.
      • Alexander had a weapon on him.
      • Police ran a ballistic test on the weapon and found out that the weapon was used to murder several people in California.
      • Alexander was a serial killer.
    • Texas – Jason Massey case


      • Jason Massey was pulled up driving under the influence.
      • In the backseat, there was a dead cat with a noose around its neck.
      • Jason Massey was convicted and sentenced for drunk driving.
      • When his time in prison was done, he got out.
      • He then took two teenagers, mutilated and brutally murdered them.
    • David Berkowitz


      • Best known as the Son of Sam.
      • He believed God was telling him to kill.
      • At one point during his crimes, he admitted to shooting dogs in the neighborhood.
    • Brenda Spencer


      • Notorious for shooting a gun into a crowd of children. Eleven children were hit by her bullets with two dying.
      • When she was a child, Spencer lit the tails of cats and dogs, which she found in the neighborhood, on fire.
    • Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer


      • Also known as the Milwaukee Cannibal an American serial killer and sex offender.
      • Committed the rape, murder, and dismemberment of seventeen men and boys between 1978 and 1991, with many of his later murders also involving necrophilia, cannibalism and the permanent preservation of body parts.
      • When Jeffrey Dahmer was a kid, his hobby was to kill his neighbor's pets. He even impaled a dog's head on a stick and displayed it.
    • Albert DeSalvo


      • Best known as the Boston Strangler who killed multiple women.
      • As a child, he would trap dogs and cats in a box and would shoot arrows at them.
    • Ted Bundy


      • Murdered 40 people. Serial killer, kidnapper, rapist, burglar, necrophile.
      • When he was a child, Bundy watched as his father tortured small animals. Bundy learned from his example and did the same.
    • Edmund Emil Kemper


      • During childhood, he killed cats he found around the neighborhood and displayed their heads on poles. He even killed his own cat and cut it into pieces.
      • He killed eight women, including his mother.
    • Andrew Cunanan


      • Murdered five people, including the famous designer Gianni Versace.
      • As a kid, he used to take delight in torturing crabs by gauging their eyes with a match.
    • Lee Boyd Malvo


      • One-half of the D.C. Sniper team that killed 10 people in the greater Washington D.C.-area.
      • Admitted to torturing small animals to see how they died as a child.
    • Dennis Rader


      • The infamous BTK Killer.
      • First discovered he enjoyed binding, torturing, and killing when he experimented his method on animals when he was growing up.
    • Carroll Cole


      • Arrested for murdering 35 people.
      • Told officials that the first time he was ever violent was when he strangled a puppy as a child.
    • Elliot Rodger


      • A mass shooter, UC Santa Barbara Sorority House.
      • “I will have my revenge against humanity,” 22- year-old promised in a video uploaded to YouTube in 2014, shortly before he walked into a UC Santa Barbara sorority house and slaughtered six people before killing himself.
    • David Kelly


      • Texas shooter
      • Claimed to buy animals on Craigslist for 'target practice and had a history of animal abuse.
    • School shooters


      • Most school shooters shared a common feature! Prior to killing their classmates and teachers, all the boys involved in these school shootings had performed acts of animal cruelty such as shooting dogs, setting cats on fire, blowing up cows, and killing other small animals.
      • Pearl, Mississippi -West Paducah, Kentucky -Jonesboro, Arkansas Springfield, Oregon – Littleton, Colorado – Conyers, Georgia – San Diego, California
    • Animal Abusers and Child Abuse


      • Stephen Williams


        • Hacked his wife’s puppy to death with an ax and threatened to decapitate her with the same weapon in front of three horrified children.
      • Scott Maust


        • From Pennsylvania, was charged with corruption of minors, making terroristic threats, and cruelty to animals after shooting his family’s dog with a .22-caliber firearm, ordering his four children to clean up the bloody scene, and threatening to kill them if they told anyone.
      • Jade M. Jonas and Michael R. Smith


        • Faced felony charges after authorities reportedly discovered their two children as well as three dogs in their filthy home.
        • Not only was there a tethered dog outside the home who had been deprived of food and water
        • A 3- month-old boy lying near piles of feces, trash, and rotten food, a half-clothed toddler, and two additional dogs.
      • John Morris


        • The subject of neighbor’s concerns to police because of sick and emaciated dogs confined in dirty animal carriers.
        • Upon entering the home, authorities found 40 parasite-ridden dogs living amid 6 inches of feces on the property.
        • They also found that three children ages 3, 10, and 15 lived in the horrific conditions as well


Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse (27:08; 36:34)

  • Batterer threatens or harms pet to warn family of his power and control.


    • Manipulates, intimidates and retaliates using animal abuse as a weapon.
    • Survivors stay trapped in fear of what will happen to pets (and livestock) if they escape.
  • Key Statistics


    • 71% of pet-owning women in a shelter reported their husband or boyfriend killed, harmed or threatened an animal.


      • “I did this to your dog – you’re next!”
    • 32% reported their children had hurt or killed animals.
    • 87% of incidents occurred in presence of women:


      • 75% in presence of the children to manipulate, intimidate and control them.
      • Families are held hostage: “emotional blackmail.”
    • 18% – 48% of women remain with the abuser for up to two additional years in fear for animals' welfare.
    • Pets of family members who help her escape are also targeted in acts of retaliation.
    • 41% of individuals arrested for domestic violence had committed at least one act of animal abuse since the age of 18.
    • 30% of individuals arrested for dog fighting or animal cruelty had prior histories of domestic violence. Children who have been exposed to domestic violence are 3X more likely to be cruel to animals.
  • The Intergenerational Cycle of Violence


    • Domestic violence batterer
    • Animal harmed or threatened
    • Survivors stay
    • Children exposed to domestic violence and animal abuse
    • Children grow up to be violent
  • Greatest Risk Factors for Becoming an Abuser


    • Low education level.
    • Mental health issues.
    • Substance abuse.
    • History of actual or threatened animal abuse.
  • Batterers and stalkers who also abuse animals are more dangerous and use more

controlling behaviors.


Child Maltreatment and Animal Abuse (30:54)

  • Sexually abused children forced to remain quiet in fear for their pet’s safety.


    • Victims often talk more about the animal abuse than the abuse they themselves had.
  • Children who commit – or witness – animal cruelty at greater risk of antisocial behavior.


    • Intervene, provide mental health support.
  • Children who bully – or who have been bullied are at greater risk of antisocial behavior.
  • Children may abuse animals because they have been victimized themselves: take aggression out on animals or re-enact their abuse.
  • Children attend animal fights and are desensitized to cruelty.


Why Are People Cruel to Animals? (32:40)

  • Ignorance.
  • Inability to empathize.
  • Don’t believe animals worthy of moral consideration.
  • Accustomed to abuse: family or cultural values.
  • Inadequate coping skills, more sensitive to stress and frustration.
  • Note: Different types of abuse have different motivations and psychopathologies and must be treated differently.


Why Are Children Cruel to Animals? (33:44)

  • Added to reasons stated above:


    • Curiosity or exploration.
    • Peer pressure; Coercion by a more powerful person.
    • Relieve boredom or depression.
    • Fear of the animal.
    • To protect the animal from worse abuse.
    • Re-enacting their own experience of being abused.
    • Regaining a sense of power after abuse.
    • Imitating adult actions.
    • Rehearsal for interpersonal violence


Does Animal Abuse Always Lead to Human Violence? (35:18)

  • Often… but not always!
  • Not every child who pulls a puppy dog’s tail grows up to become a serial killer.


    • It is an indicator, and it is best to intervene early
  • Many people who have been abused seek comfort in their animals rather than taking their anger out on them.


Elder Abuse and Animal Abuse (39:34)

  • Key Statistics:


    • 92% of Adult Protective Services caseworkers saw animal neglect co-occurring with clients' inability to care for themselves.
    • 45% observed intentional animal abuse or neglect.
    • 75% reported clients’ concerns for animals’ welfare impacted their decisions to accept interventions or services.


What Does Law Enforcement Need to Know? (40:26)

  • Key Statistics:


    • History of animal abuse found in 21% of dogs that attacked people.
    • 35% of search warrants for animal abuse or dog fighting resulted in seizures of narcotics or guns.
    • 82% of animal abuse or dog fighting offenders had prior arrests for battery.
    • Recognize animal abuse as a serious crime.
    • All 50 states now have felony-level cruelty laws (compared with only 5 in 1990).
    • FBI now includes animal cruelty in National Incident-Based Reporting System that 18,000 local law enforcement agencies use to tabulate crime statistics.
    • Veterinary forensics now available.


      • Evidence needed to build a case and make a conviction.


How Are We Responding to The Link? (46:25)

  • Milwaukee “spotabuse.org” campaign to reduce domestic violence; public reports suspected animal abuse to 911.
  • Every Police Academy ought to cover this link – the correlation between animal and human abuse.


Resources (47:40)

  • National Link Coalition
  • The National Law Enforcement Center on Animal Abuse


    • NLECAA was established to provide law enforcement officers information on the realities of animal abuse, and to promote their proactive involvement in the enforcement of animal abuse laws in their communities. The Center serves as an information clearinghouse and forum for law enforcement on the growing problem of animal abuse, its link to other types of crimes, including violence against humans, as well as information on officer-dog encounters.
  • Ice Blackbox App


    • The National Sheriffs’ Association has launched a new app to help law enforcement deal with animal abuse cases,
  • The National Coalition on Violence Against Animals
  • NSA’s Partners


    • The Association of Prosecuting Attorneys
    • Animal Welfare Institute
    • The Humane Society of the United States
    • The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
    • The Animal Legal Defense Fund's
  • Veterinary Forensics Professionals


    • Dr. Melinda Merck DVM
    • Dr. Martha Smith-Blackmore, DVM




National Law Enforcement Center on Animal Abuse

Ice Blackbox App on Android | iOS

National Coalition on Violence Against Animals

Dr. Melinda Merck, DVM

Dr. Martha Smith-Blackmore, DVM

Native America Humane Society

National Link Coalition

To sign-up for the free monthly newsletter: arkowpets@snip.net



For questions and clarifications, contact:

John Thompson

Deputy Executive Director and COO

National Sheriff Association





Additional Resources