Forms of Domestic Abuse

“One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it.” ~ Margaret Mead

Three things commonly happen to children who witness violent domestic abuse or who are victims themselves of domestic abuse:

  1. They become desensitized to violence and lose the ability to empathize.
  2. They torture and kill small animals.
  3. They become abusers, killers, and serial killers as adults.

The environment into which we place children molds them into who they are as adults. And Mathew grew into a horrifying mirror image of his childhood environment.

When Mathew was seven, he was forced to watch his father hack his puppy to death with an axe because the puppy had an accident on the carpet in front of the father’s easy chair. When Mathew tried to run away, his father grabbed him by his hair and threw him to the ground.

“You’re next, [expletive], if you don’t get that [expletive] cleaned up NOW!” He screamed at Mathew’s terrified mother. Mathew was then ordered to clean up the horrific mess, place his puppy’s mangled body in a black trash bag, and carry it to the dumpster in their apartment complex.

The following year, Mathew’s father beat his mother so badly that she was in a coma and on life support for several weeks.

During his mother’s hospitalization and his father’s subsequent incarceration, Mathew went to live with his grandmother and began collecting grasshoppers and beetles in old mayonnaise jars, pouring glue into the jars, and setting them on fire.

By 10, Mathew’s parents were back home and so was he. He began cutting legs and tails off squirrels and chipmunks while they were still alive, shooting neighborhood dogs’ eyes out with a BB gun, and pouring gasoline on cats and setting them on fire.

“It was fun,” he said in an interview from prison a decade later, where he was serving a life sentence for the sexual torture and murder of two teenage girls. “I didn’t think about how they felt. I didn’t care how they felt.”

When asked how he felt now, he shrugged and said, “No different.”

What about his two teenage victims?

He shrugged again. “I don’t feel anything about them. Don’t feel bad, don’t feel good.”

The Connections between Domestic Abuse, Animal Abuse, and Criminal Violence

The link between domestic abuse and animal abuse is well documented. The link between animal abuse and subsequent violent acts to humans is just as well documented. Domestic abuse, animal abuse, and subsequent criminal violence form a horrific causal chain.

  • A shocking 99 percent of serial killers have two things in common: as children, they tortured and killed small animals and they could not empathize with their non-human or human victims.
  • Research done by Michigan State University shows that 100% of sexual homicide offenders had a history of cruelty to animals.
  • According to the National Link Coalition, animal abuse is “one of the earliest ‘red flag’ warning signs of concurrent or future violent acts.”

Why Animal Abuse?

Children who have been abused and humiliated, or who have repeatedly watched violent domestic abuse in their environments, feel they have no control. At the same time, they become desensitized to violence and lose the ability to empathize with others in pain. They seek control over a smaller victim, like an animal, and torture and kill it. Animal abuse is a way to exert the control of which their violent environment has stripped them and also a way to imitate what the adults in their environment model.

Children who witness or who are victims of domestic violence are also angry, traumatized, and socially undeveloped and withdrawn. They often lash out at something more vulnerable than they are, like a small animal. They learn from their parents to react to anger and frustration with violence.

Children who torture and kill animals are acting out their own feelings of powerlessness and pain. When children abuse animals, it is a sign that something is terribly wrong.

History of Animal Abuse among Notorious Killers

When they were children, did you know  . . .   ?

  • The Boston Strangler trapped cats and dogs in boxes and then shot them with arrows.
  • Jeffrey Dahmer decapitated dogs, nailed cats to trees, and impaled animal heads on sticks. He killed and dismembered his own puppy and mounted its head on a stake.
  • BTK (“Bind-Torture-Kill” serial killer Dennis Rader) hanged a dog and a cat.
  • Sniper Lee Boyd Malvo killed dozens of cats with a slingshot.
  • Columbine high-school shooters bragged to classmates about mutilating animals.
  • Ted Bundy mutilated cats with knives.
  • David Berkowitz (“Son of Sam” serial killer) believed animals ordered him to kill, and he shot his neighbor’s dog.
  • John Wayne Gacy performed cruel experiments on animals.

According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, “Abusers of animals are five times as likely to harm humans.”

If you see or suspect a child is harming an animal, report it immediately – not just for the sake of the animal, but for the sake of the child. Early intervention can turn the child’s behavior around and save potential victims.

According to the American Humane Association, 71% of women who are in shelters and who own pets report that their abuser had threatened, killed, or harmed a family pet, and 70% of animal abusers also had records for other crimes.

If you see or suspect domestic abuse against animals or humans, report it immediately. People who abuse animals don’t stop there.

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Ted Pelot Owner & President of Crime Scene Cleanup Company - Advanced Bio-Treatment