Every April, the ASPCA asks everyone to wear orange in order to spread awareness of animal cruelty. This kind of awareness is vitally important because (a) the lives of so many animals are being lost due to animal cruelty and (b) because animal cruelty is indicative of other scary problems in society.
2 Forms of Animal Cruelty
#1 Active cruelty.
Those who intentionally cause harm to an animal are committing an act of active cruelty. Active cruelty is what most people picture when they think of animal cruelty. Many examples of this flood the news; people dousing animals in gasoline and lighting them on fire, people engaged in dog fighting, people who beat animals, etc.
#2 Passive Cruelty.
Anyone who willfully allows a pet to suffer or go without their basic needs is committing an act of passive cruelty. Animal hoarders often commit acts of passive cruelty by not providing enough food, water, adequate space, appropriate veterinary care, or keeping the living environment clean. Another example is the person who leaves their dog tied to a post in the backyard all of the time without proper food, water, or shelter.
Why does it happen?
According to the National Humane Education Society there are 4 basic reasons why people abuse animals. These are not excuses for animal cruelty, but rather underlying causes.
- Behavioral/Psychotic Disturbances – Disorders of the brain may lead to lack of impulse control, lack of empathy, anger issues, and violent outbursts. Traumatic experiences can influence these things as well.
- The “Cycle of Violence” – Children who have grown up in abusive households often become abusers themselves as adults. Abused children also tend express their feelings about their own abuse through acting it out on animals.
- Lack of Connection to Nature – People who have not had pets or taken care of plants do not seem to empathize with animals very well.
- Culture, Religion, and the Media – It is really hard to get people to change their view of things that are deeply steeped in their culture or religion. The way animals are treated in the media reflects in a person’s view of animals too.
It is really important that parents do their best to supervise their child’s interactions with animals. Young children often do not have a very developed understanding of death, injury, or pain. They may think that rough housing with a pet as if it is another child or “punishing” a pet for misbehavior is perfectly fine.
If you know that a child is intentionally being cruel to animals, don’t ignore it. Correcting this behavior in a child could save them from becoming abusive to animals and humans as adults.
A history of animal cruelty during childhood was significantly associated with APD [Anti-Social Personality Disorder], antisocial personality traits, and polysubstance abuse. – Dr. R Gleyzer *
Also, there is a strong correlation between children who are being abused or neglected by their parents and children who abuse animals. Reporting this behavior in children could be a step in removing them from an abusive or neglectful situation.
Reporting Animal Cruelty
Be aware of what is going on in your community and encourage others to do the same. Acknowledging and reporting cases of animal cruelty is one way to let abusers know that what they are doing is not welcome in your neck of the woods. You may want to write down any details of acts of cruelty that you encounter so that you can provide as much evidence to the authorities as possible.
- Learn about your state’s anti-cruelty laws. The ASPCA has a widget for finding your state laws – click here.
- Call the local police or 911. Depending on the situation, the police may or may not be able to help you.
- Call your local animal welfare agency. This may be the local Humane Society, ASPCA, or another animal rescue. It is different from area to area so you will have to do some research.
*R Gleyzer, AR Felthous, and Holzer CE, 3rd Animal cruelty and psychiatric disorders J Am Acad Psychiatry Law June 1, 2002 30:257-265