As states across the country try to tighten penalties for cruelty to animals, researchers at Michigan State University have found a correlation between the types of animal abuse committed and the perpetrator’s relationship with an animal and its owner.
For example, the pet owner tends to neglect crime (i.e., withhold food and water). On the flip side, in crimes that involve kicking or stabbing, the suspect is usually an owner’s family member or intimate partner, says Laura Reese, professor of urban and regional planning at Michigan State University.
Reese and Cassie Richard, a Masters of Public Policy student who now works for the Oregon Commission for the Blind, studied more than 300 police reports on animal cruelty in Detroit between 2007 and 2015. They divided abuse into eight types, including dog fighting, gunfire and poisoning, stabbing and neglect.
The researchers coded the list of reasons for atrocities when the perpetrators listed it, then compared it to the Detroit Police Department’s crime fodder to examine their other crime patterns.
The researchers also found:
- It’s usually the owners – and not anyone else – who engage their dogs in dog fights as a form of abuse, often for the money. However, owners are also less likely to commit more active forms of cruelty, possibly due to their role as guardians.
- Most stings affect family members, while neighbors usually commit poisoning.
- The motivations are different. For intimate partners of pet owners, frustration with a relationship is often the cause of violence, while for neighbors, molesting an animal is often the cause of cruelty.
“This is not just an animal problem, it’s a human problem,” Reese says.
“For example, people who shoot other people are more likely to shoot animals. At the same time, dog fighting is a public safety issue, and dogs that let loose biting humans run due to neglect are a public health issue. So solving human problems helps animal problems and vice versa, and we need to encourage officials to think that way. “
Most policy makers don’t, however, she says. Preventing cruelty to animals needs to be a coordinated effort between law enforcement, government agencies and nonprofits. And because forms of cruelty to animals are different, public policies and public health solutions should vary.
For example, dog fighting is related to gambling, drugs, and gun crime. So raids on these issues would deal with this form of cruelty. In the meantime, inexpensive veterinary services and enforcement of existing regulations like licensing requirements and leash laws would aim to neglect the owner.
“In schools, people could simply be educated and informed about proper nutrition, castration and castration,” says Reese.
“People often want to do the right thing, but they may not have the resources. At the same time, cruelty is also linked to domestic violence, which raises a separate and more complex set of concerns. This is why we need our lawmakers and local officials to understand the complexities of animal cruelty and make solutions a priority. “