Domestic animal abuse is a difficult topic to separate from the agendas of those who would prevent it. The reports are certainly horrible enough on their own: a husband and wife are arrested for shipping 182 animals—mostly collies–in a tractor-trailer truck, a house is found filled with filthy, dying cats, dogs, and birds; hundreds of dogs die annually from being left unattended in the cars during the summer heat. Of course, animals do not need to die en masse for abuse to take place.
Every day, family pets are forced to suffer abuse that would be otherwise aimed at human family members, they are tied outside without food and water, or they are simply ignored to death. Combating animal abuse can be difficult, however. In addition to the agendas shaping any efforts against it, no single legal definition exists for what constitutes domestic animal abuse. Because of this lack of a single definition, there can be no single form of prosecution.
Yet, the significance of animal abuse goes far beyond that of the obvious cruelty to animals.
It can be used as a predictor for people who develop sociopathy and has been connected with the occurrence of domestic abuse in the home. This paper will be used to discuss some of the difficulties that are associated with defining and legislating domestic animal abuse. It will also offer some discussion of the effects of this pervasive problem. Defining Domestic Animal Abuse Despite all of the annual occurrences of domestic animal abuse, there is no single definition for what constitutes such abuse.
Animal rights extremist organizations, such as the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA), the Humane Society for the United States (HSUS), and the Doris Day Animal League (DDAL) all believe that any use of animals constitute animal abuse. Ultimately, according to these organizations, any “use” of domestic animals constitutes abuse; even merely keeping a pet in one’s home is an abusive act. Using this reason any animal husbandry, from raising chickens for eggs, to keeping cows for milk, or any participation in the meat or fur industry constitutes abuse.
Medical science represents the worst of these abuses, since it “takes away the rights” of an animal by sacrificing its health or life in favor of preserving human health or lives (Goodwin and Morrison). Legal definitions of domestic animal abuse, or animal cruelty, are much broader than this very narrow stance. Many state laws define animals as being “vertebrate animals” that are not human beings, although some states also include birds such as parrots or sparrows, as well. Other states do not refer to what defines an animal at all. In addition, some states do not permit fish or shellfish to be included in the discussion.
If the laws concerning the definition of “animal,” “pet” or “companion animal” are so variable, then it should come as no surprise that laws defining abuse itself are varied, as well. However, it is common to break cruelty to animals down into two broad categories: passive (acts of omission) and active (acts of commission). Although there are no clearly defined categories for these acts or inactions, there are certain “patterns of behavior” that occur under the overall umbrella of “animal cruelty” or abuse (“Animal Cruelty,” n. d. , par. 1).
Passive acts of cruelty are sometimes called “animal neglect. ” These kinds of cruelty usually involve withholding something from the animal, such as food or water. In addition, passive acts might include failure to act if a pet becomes infested with any kind of parasite or if a collar becomes embedded into a pet’s skin due to the growth of the pet (Pet-Abuse. com pars. 4-5). In general, neglect is treated as a minor offense if only one animal, or a small number of animals, is involved. The severity of the crime increases, however, with and increasingly large number of animals involved.
Neglect cases may also be divided between unintentional neglect, caused by ignorance, and intentional or “willful” neglect, caused by knowingly mistreating an animal (Lockwood, 2006, p. 19). Active acts of cruelty include violence against animals, often referred to as “torture,” “malicious intent,” or “non-accidental injury” (“Animal Cruelty,” n. d. , par. 6). Such abuse is of greater concern than is passive animal abuse. Some forms of violent active animal abuse is associated with other crimes, such as domestic abuse or child abuse. These abuses can also be used as a predictor of other crimes.
Both of these observations will be expanded upon in a later section of this paper. Animal hoarding, organized “sporting” abuse, ritualistic abuse, and the use of animals for sexual gratification are all forms of active animal abuse (Lockwood, 2006, pp. 20-23). All of these forms of animal abuse are serious issues, causing both concern and expense for the community as a whole. Even animal hording, which is sometimes caricatured in movies–perhaps with an elderly female character with a house full of skinny, yowling cats–should be a matter of concern for society.
Due to the hidden concerns of this form of abuse somewhat more discussion will be given to this form of abuse than the other three mentioned. Animal hoarding is a familiar to many of us; however, it is not always recognized for the problem that it is. It seems to be increasingly common to hear about a raid on a home that contains dozens, if not hundreds, of malnourished and half-wild animals, even if it is only reported as a “human interest” story or in the late-night television comedian’s monologue. However, according to Patronek, Loar, and Nathanson (2006) animal hoarding:
is an important, misunderstood, and under-recognized community problem that affects both human and animal welfare. It is responsible for substantial animal suffering and property damage. Often associated with adult self-neglect, animal hoarding can also place children, elders, and dependent adults at serious risk and can be an economic burden to taxpayers. (p. 1) Although not always recognized as a problem, animal hoarding is relatively easy to identify. It is characterized by four factors: 1) the lack of the minimum physical care needed by the animals,
2) the abuser’s inability to recognize the abuse, 3) the obsession to continue collecting animals even when the number of animals housed exceed the ability to provide ideal living conditions, and 4) the abuser’s denial that the declining conditions exist (Patronek, Loar, & Nathanson, 2006, p. 1). Despite these common factors, however, animal hoarding is not a simple problem to contain. Several different kinds of animal hoarding exist, from the fairly benign “overwhelmed caregiver” to the person who acquires animals only to exploit them.
Because of the variability of situations in which a person might begin hoarding animals, these classifications are fluid and characteristics might overlap. Sporting abuse is, fortunately, not as widespread as it was even 100 years ago. However, although most people think automatically of dog fighting and chicken fighting when animal “blood sports” are mentioned, others also exist. Despite their cultural acceptance, blood sports such as bullfighting in Spain and pit sports, such as fighting dogs and wild hogs in the Southeastern United States, might still be considered animal abuse.
Ritualistic abuse is considered above and beyond the ability to sacrifice animals in the practice of a religion. While religious animal sacrifice is not included in most animal abuse statutes, it is often carefully defined and controlled by the law. Other forms of ritual animal killing is considered abuse and may be an indication that person committing the act has other serious psychological issues at work. This kind of abuse is incites communities to an emotional furor, due to the association that it has with allegedly satanic rituals and other “hot button” issues.
For this reason, this kind of abuse is particularly disruptive to the community. Finally, some people find sexual gratification in congress with animal “partners,” known as “bestiality. ” In truth, there is no “partnership” between the human abuser and the animal being abused in such a manner. Animals cannot voluntarily decide to take a human being as a mate or not. Therefore, they must be forced to act against their instinctive drives in order to comply with their human “partner’s” desires.
This act of force is a violation of animal abuse laws in many nations (Lockwood, 2006). However, it should be noted that stimulation of an animal to collect sperm for frozen or cold storage for the purposes of artificial insemination is not considered bestiality. Other Laws Concerning Animal Abuse Not all nations agree on what constitutes animal abuse. While tail docking and ear cropping is currently legal in the United States, it is considered a form of animal mutilation in the United Kingdom.
The Animal Welfare Act, signed by Elizabeth II in 2006, extends animal abuse laws to include invertebrates and gives municipalities to include animals in their “foetal or embryonic form,” should they choose to do so (p. 1). However, they may only do so as long as “the appropriate national authority is satisfied, on the basis of scientific evidence, that animals of the kind concerned are capable of experiencing pain or suffering” (Animal Welfare Act, 2006, p. 1).
This act also clearly defines the terms “protected animals” and “unnecessary suffering” for the purposes of the law, as well as the manner by which individuals can be held responsible for that suffering (Animal Welfare Act, 2006, p. 2). It is interesting to note that only domestic animals are defined as “protected” animals; no matter what the behavior perpetrated upon them, wild animals, by definition, cannot be abused. Germany, like the rest of the European Union, attaches a moral stance to the protection of animals through their laws.
This stance is in contrast to that of the United States, which protect animals in terms of property laws. Although the European perspective may appear to be superior to some, both positions have some advantages. Moral stances are not always objective ones; however, objective stances sometimes reduce decisions to a quantifiable decision-making process, which does not always allow for human needs and opinions to enter into the equation.
In addition to laws concerning the abuse and husbandry of all domestic animals, the German law also defines limits for those individuals who wish to breed domestic animals. However, with all of these limitations, The German law does not specifically cover the hoarding of animals. The Significance of Animal Abuse Animal abuse is not only significant because it brings harm to sentient beings that humans should have an obligation to protect, it is also significant because of its relationship to other problems that plague society.
These issues are not limited to any one race, ethnic group, religion, age, or income level. According to Lockwood (2006) juveniles perpetrate approximately one third of all animal abuse crimes (p. 33). In such cases, animal abuse might be indicative of abuse being perpetrated within the home, either against the juvenile or another family member, or it may indicate mental disease on the part of the juvenile him or herself (Lockwood, 2006).
Lockwood identifies 15 major factors in determining the danger that the animal abuser presents to society. This list includes the vulnerability and the number of the animal victims, the severity and the repetition or number of forms of abuse on the victim(s), any threats that the animal abuse might have been meant to reinforce, and the manner of recording, if any, of the abuse (p. 35). Research reported in the Juvenile Justice Bulletin (JJB) (2001) indicates a link between conduct disorder in children and animal abuse.
“Conduct disorder” as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSMIV) is “a repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate societal norms or rules are violated” (par. 1). In addition, the child must conform to at least three of 15 other indicators for the disorder. One of these 15 indicators is animal abuse, which may range in intensity from mild teasing to torture and killing beginning at the age of approximately 6. 5 years of age (Juvenile Justice Bulletin, 2001, par. 2).
Children with Operational Defiant Disorder (ODD) or Conduct Disorder (CD) often go on to become serious offenders as adults. Children with CD often go on to be described as sociopaths later in life, as well. According to the JJB, the differences between children who abuse animals and non-abusive children are significantly different when tracked for adult arrests for violent crimes, property crimes, drug offenses, and public order offenses. The JBB concludes that “these results make it clear that animal abusers are not only dangerous to their animal victims but also may jeopardize human welfare” (par.
7). This research is backed up by “Understanding the Links,” a pamphlet put out by the British National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which states that: If a child is cruel to animals this may be an indicator that serious neglect and abuse have been inflicted on the child. While recent research in the UK suggests that animal abuse by children is quite widespread, in a minority of more extreme cases it appears to be associated with abuse of the child, or subsequent abusive behavior by the child.
(Understanding the Links, n. d. p. 5). In addition to the issue of conduct disorder, there is a definitive link between animal abuse and other forms of domestic abuse. Animal abuse is at times part of the “constellation of family violence,” although by no means is it definite that an adult who harms animals will also harm their domestic partners or their children (p. 5). Although this observation is indeed true, it is also true that animal abuse is sometimes used as a form of coercion in abusive relationships. Regardless, it appears that:
o Serious animal abuse in a household may indicate the occurrence of other domestic violence o Animal abuse might be done for coercion and intimidation of family members to keep them from leaving or speaking about an abusive domestic situation. o Sexualized or aggressive behavior toward animals on the part of a child may indicate the possibility of later animal abuse when that child matures (Understanding the Links, n. d. , p. 5). Conclusion Animal abuse is a difficult crime to describe and to define. Many different forms of abuse occur under the single umbrella term.
Abuse can be passive or active. Passive abuse takes place when people withhold care from animals and can range from simple ignorant (and therefore correctible) acts to malicious neglect. Active abuse, however, does not typically occur out of ignorance. Due to its effects on the human psyche, particularly in terms of young children, animal abuse is not a stand-alone issue. When domestic violence is found in a home, animal abuse is often found as well. When animal abuse occurs, it may also indicate other, serious problems in