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Cruelty to Animals and Violence to People

NCJ Number
Victims and Offenders Volume: 2 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2007 Pages: 21-43
Marie Louise Petersen; David P. Farrington
Date Published
January 2007
23 pages
This article reviews existing research linking cruelty to animals with violence towards humans and discusses the need for future research to examine this relationship.
The topic of animal cruelty has been largely neglected by criminological researchers. However, studies suggest that children who are cruel to animals disproportionally tend to be violent to people later in life. Case histories of serial killers and mass murderers suggest that many were cruel to animals in their childhood. Furthermore, it is argued that cruelty to animals in a family tends to be associated with domestic violence, child abuse, and elder abuse. Unfortunately, much of the previous research was based on small, unrepresentative samples, with poor or no control samples and retrospective information. Prospective longitudinal surveys of large representative samples are needed. Family based prevention programs might be effective in reducing cruelty to animals, but experimental evaluations of such programs are required. The time is ripe for a major research program to advance knowledge about the causes and prevention of animal cruelty and its implications for criminology. (Published Abstract)