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Is someone who kills animals likely to become a serial killer?

January 12, 2015 11 comments

10917130_1514307598832911_7542187844083024648_nDoes killing an animal mean someone will become a serial killer?

This is the question I have been asking myself for a few days now, ever since I first read the article in The Princeton Union-Eagle (Warning: It is not for the faint of heart) detailing the beating, torture and killing of a dog named Draco by a man named Anthony (Tony) Sather.

I have always assumed that someone who kills or mutilates animals is a serial killer in the making. They have been linked in my mind for as long as I can remember. Killing animals = serial killer. But is it really the case?

Ever since the Justice for Draco Facebook group was created and the petition shared, I have seen comment after comment saying pretty much the same thing:

  • Someone who commits an act like this is a serial killer in the making and they will progress to killing a human being down the road.
  • A person who does this is not normal and never will be.
  • There is just something wrong in the brain of someone who kills animals and they will always want to kill.
  • He will do this again and next time it might be a child.

But is it true? Or, are we just assuming it is because of something we saw on T.V.?

I had to find out if what I thought I knew was accurate. So, I decided to do a little digging.

The first piece I found was about children and animal cruelty (written by Joni E. Johnston, Psy.D, in Psychology Today).  It turns out that cruelty against an animal can be caused by more than just a bad person or someone who is evil. In fact, according to Dr. Johnston, there is a common thread between children who abuse animals and those who have “witnessed or experienced abuse themselves.” Children who experience or witness abuse are more likely to reenact that violence on animal or pet either as post-traumatic play or in imitation of something they witnessed or experienced.

Dr Johnston shared 13 possible motives for child or teen violence against animals, including post-traumatic play and imitation, but also curiosity. She also wrote:

Every act of violence committed against an animal is not a sign that a person is going to turn out to be a homicidal maniac. Particularly with young children, whose natural exuberance and curiosity can lead to some unpleasant experiences for their pets, it is fine to shrug off an occasional lapse in judgment while continuing to educate the child about humane animal treatment.

However, locking a pet inside a closed space, violently lashing out at a pet after getting in trouble with a parent, or taking pleasure in watching an animal in pain are all “red flags” that signal the need for professional intervention. This is particularly true when the child has the cognitive maturity to understand that what s/he is doing is wrong – and repeatedly does it anyway. “Children Who are Cruel to Animals: When to Worry”, Psychology Today, Joni E. Johnston, Psy.D,

So, not every child who abuses an animal is necessarily a serial killer in the making. That is reassuring.

So, what about adults who were cruel to animals in childhood and continued on into adolescence, as it has been alleged in Anthony Sather’s case? Are they serial killers in the making? In another piece from Psychology Today, “Do Mass Killers Start Out by Harming Pets?,”, Dr Gail F. Melson (Ph.D.) shares some concerning information.

Like Dr. Johnston mentioned in the above referenced piece, Dr Melson acknowledges that children who experience abuse are more likely to abuse animals, but she also shares some additional data:

“In an assessment of 1433 children ages 6 to 12, Ascione found that among abused children, 60% had abused animals.” “Do Mass Killers Start Out by Harming Pets?,”, Psychology Today, Gail F. Melson (Ph.D.)

She goes further and writes that animal abuse is usually the first tell-tale sign of trouble in “adolescent and adult killers.” Even more disturbing, evaluations conducted at state penitentiaries show that “70% of the most violent prisoners had serious and repeated animal abuse in their childhood histories.”  In other words, our most violent criminals started first with animals.

However, Dr. Melson also cautions us against assuming a single act is a predictor of someone who will kill in the future and to instead consider a “red flag” that should be examined further. Then there was this piece in Psychology today, which completely contradicted what I had read (and assumed) about animal cruelty and serial killers. According to Hal Herzog, Ph.D., our assumptions about animal cruelty and serial killers are incorrect

“… contrary to popular opinion, most serial killers and school shooters do not have documented history of animal abuse.”  “Animal Cruelty and the Sadism of Everyday Life”, Psychology Today, Hal Herzog, Ph.D.

So, being a psychopath (which is often associated with serial killers) does not necessarily indicate prior animal abuse or acts of animal cruelty, but according to a study mentioned by Dr. Herzog, something else does, sadism.

sa·dism

noun \ˈsā-ˌdi-zəm, ˈsa-\

: enjoyment that someone gets from being violent or cruel or from causing pain; especially : sexual enjoyment from hurting or punishing someone

Sadists gain enjoyment from causing pain, but they are not necessarily always a serial killer or vice versa.

So where does this leave us?  Does this mean serial killers are out? Does this mean killing an animal does not create a serial killer? Or, that someone who commits a cruel act against an animal is unlikely to do it again? Not necessarily, as discussed in “What Makes Serial Killers Tick?”, there are a variety of factors at play, including: early development experiences, genetics, and a combination of other personality traits like anti-social behavior. Not every serial killer started with animals and not every sadist ends up becoming a serial killer.

However, one thing seems to be certain, someone who has killed and tortured animals as a child, and continues to do so into adulthood, will continue to do so until he/she is stopped. Whether or not that person goes on to kill people is uncertain, and dependent on a wide variety of factors.

However, sadistic serial killers do exist, so the possibility exists that someone who kills animals could become a serial killer is there. Whether or not that person will be one can only be determined by those who have an expertise in psychological personality disorders.

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What you don’t see when you buy your puppy online

November 26, 2012 24 comments

Thanks to the media, celebrities, and numerous animal advocates, the message about pet stores, and the puppy mill dogs that supply them, is starting to reach people. More and more pet stores are being shut down or have stopped selling puppies. It’s encouraging to see the tides of change coming.

However, there is another front in the fight against puppy mills that people don’t often think about – the internet. 

The internet is a relatively new marketplace for puppy mill owners, but they love it.

  • It’s an easy way to sell their puppies. Create a website, tell a great story about how much you lovingly care for your puppies, post a few cute puppy pictures, and you’re in business.
  • It also increases a puppy miller’s profit margins – no middle man to take a cut of the profits. They just ship the puppy directly to you.
  • The other attractive feature in using the internet is that it’s safer than selling your puppies to pet stores. Online sellers of animals are not subject to  USDA inspections. No licensing. No inspections. It’s a relatively safe way to hide those skeletons while preying upon the unwitting puppy lover.

What most people don’t realize is that puppy millers are some of the best grifters out there. They know how to build trust, tug on your heart-strings, and reassure you they are on the up-and-up, all in one phone conversation or email exchange.

The sweet stories they are telling you online is not what’s really going on behind the scenes – animal cruelty, abuse, starvation, minimal, if any, medical care, and no socialization for the dogs.

Using the internet allows them to fool you into thinking they are a wonderful family who breeds dogs because they love them so much. Of course, they will be sure to let you know all of their breeding dogs are “family dogs” and live inside with them as a member of their family. How sweet. How could you not trust someone like that?

It’s so easy for them to fool people.

One example came to light recently that I thought was worth sharing.

Example: Pedigree Pets

Such a cute picture of a sweet little puppy isn’t it? Such a beautiful website. Simple, but how can you resist that puppy?
Pedigree Pets-1

What a sweet little family. You can tell they care so much for their dogs and puppies. It’s so sweet that their grandchildren play with the puppies. And, I love how they “deliver each and every one of the puppies themselves.” I wonder how they do it with such loving care?

Pedigree Pets-2

 

Oh wait. What happened here? A raid? 241 dogs seized? What happened to that nice little family with the grandchildren that loved to play with all their cute puppies? The puppies they personally delivered by hand?

Examiner article-Pedigree Pets

I know it’s hard to believe, but that cute little family story puppy millers put on their website is just that, a story. Or, as I like to say… B.S. According to the sheriff, veterinarians and the Ohio SPCA, the dogs were starving, had no water and were in bad shape. At least those are the allegations. The owners plead Not Guilty today, so we will have to wait to see how many of the 723 charges they will  be convicted on. I’ll leave you to check out the video of the raid on Pet-Abuse.com and make your own judgement.

Here is an excerpt of the story from Examiner.com:

Pedigree Pets was raided on Saturday, November 17, 2012 after an investigation by Deputy Cami Frey. Dogs and puppies were found living in horrid conditions and many were found to be ill, injured and emaciated. Several of the dogs had to be treated for wounds and infections.

The local sheriff that was involved in the raid on Pedigree Pets says it best…

“Online puppy mills are notorious for depicting their kennels as being wonderful places. In reality, they are massively breeding and housing dogs in cages and hutches for their entire lives”.

Don’t be fooled by those cute little websites featuring cute little puppies with fanciful stories of their wonderful families and family life. Buying a puppy online is just as bad as buying from a pet store.

Please Don’t Shop (not online or in a pet store), Adopt.

My sincere thanks to the Ohio SPCA for their hard work in saving these dogs and in seeing to their immediate care. Pedigree Pet’s breeding dogs, and their puppies, are now in the care of 22 wonderful Ohio rescues. The money it costs to care for all these dogs is not a minimal amount. Many puppy mill dogs are sick, undernourished, full of worms and have eye and dental issues. This case is no different. I am listing all of the rescues here. If you an donate to help with the care for these puppy mill dogs, please do so. It takes a village to help these dogs. One dollar is more than nothing. Please give what you can.

Peace for Paws (on Facebook)

Central Ohio Pomeranian Rescue (on Facebook)

WolfSpirits Toy Breed Puppy Mill Rescue (on Facebook)

Chihuahua Rescue and Transport (on Facebook)

Mid-Ohio Animal Welfare League (on Facebook)

Dachshund Rescue of Ohio

Great Lakes Westie Rescue (on Facebook)

Star-Mar Rescue

SICSA (Society for the Improvement of Conditions for Stray Animals)

Columbus Cockers (on Facebook)

Central Ohio Dog Rescue League (on Facebook)

Marilyn’s Voice (on Facebook)

Paws Ohio (on Facebook)

Stormy’s Place (on Facebook)

Lost and Found K9 Rescue (on Facebook)

Thirdtyme Rescue (on Facebook)

Ohio Fuzzy Pawz Shih Tzu Rescue (on Facebook)

Measles Animal Haven (on Facebook)

Silky Rescue (on Facebook)

Lucky Star (on Facebook)

Colony Cats (on Facebook)

Ohio Basset Rescue (on Facebook)

Permission to share this photo was granted by the Ohio SPCA.

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