The shocking number of animal cruelty cases reported every day is just the tip of the iceberg—most cases are never reported. Unlike violent crimes against people, cases of animal abuse are not compiled by state or federal agencies, making it difficult to calculate just how common they occur.
Who abuses animals?
Cruelty and neglect cross all social and economic boundaries and media reports suggest that animal abuse is common in both rural and urban areas. Intentional cruelty to animals is strongly correlated with other crimes, including violence against people. Hoarding behavior often victimizes animals. Sufferers of a hoarding disorder may impose severe neglect on animals by housing far more than they are able to adequately take care of. Serious animal neglect (such as hoarding) is often an indicator of people in need of social or mental health services. Surveys suggest that those who intentionally abuse animals are predominantly men under 30, while those involved in animal hoarding are more likely to be women over 60.
Most common victims
The animals whose abuse is most often reported are dogs, cats, horses and livestock. Undercover investigations have revealed that animal abuse abounds in the factory farm industry. But because of the weak protections afforded to livestock under state cruelty laws, only the most shocking cases are reported, and few are ever prosecuted.
Dogfighting, cockfighting and other forms of organized animal cruelty go hand in hand with other crimes, and continues in many areas of the United States due to public corruption. For instance, documented uniformed police officers have been sited participating in cockfighting. The U.S. Enforcement Agency has prosecuted multiple drug cartels running narcotics through cockfighting and dogfighting operations. Even homicides have been reported at dog and cock fights.
Correlation with domestic violence
Data on domestic violence and child abuse cases reveal that a staggering number of animals are targeted by those who abuse their children or spouses. Families under investigation for suspected child abuse, researchers found that pet abuse had occurred in 88 percent of the families under supervision for physical abuse of their children. To put a stop to this pattern of violence, the Humane Society Legislative Fund supported the Pets and Women’s Safety (PAWS) Act, introduced to Congress in 2015 as H.R. 1258 and S.B. 1559 and enacted as part of the farm bill passed by Congress and signed by President Trump in 2018.
Once fully enacted, the PAWS Act helps victims of domestic abuse find the means to escape their abusers while keeping their companion animals safe—many victims remain in abusive households for fear of their pets’ safety.
On January 1, 2016, the FBI added cruelty to animals as a category in the Uniform Crime Report, a nationwide crime reporting system commonly used in homicide investigations. While only about a third of U.S. communities currently participate in the system, the data generated will help create a clearer picture of animal abuse and guide strategies for intervention and enforcement. Data collection covers four categories: simple/gross neglect, intentional abuse and torture, organized abuse (such as dogfighting and cockfighting) and animal sexual abuse.
Animal cruelty laws now include felony provisions in all 50 states.mose
Destra A. Moses, a Holmes County resident, is a guest columnist and a community animal rights advocate. Email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org