California lawmakers recently introduced a bill that would establish an online registry for convicted animal abusers--one that's similar to existing registries for sex offenders and arsonists. As someone who deals with dozens of cruelty-to-animals cases every week, I urge California legislators to approve this bill, and I encourage other states to consider establishing similar registries. Exposing animal abusers doesn't only protect animals--it also makes the entire community safer.
Animal abusers are cowards who take their issues out on "easy victims"--and their disregard for life and indifference to suffering often carry over to their fellow humans. A study by Northeastern University and the Massachusetts SPCA found that people who abuse animals are five times more likely to commit violent crimes against humans. Examples of this phenomenon--known to animal protection and law enforcement personnel as "the link"--abound.
A history of cruelty to animals regularly appears in FBI records of serial rapists and murderers. BTK killer Dennis Rader, who was convicted of killing 10 people, admitted that he was cruel to animals as a child and apparently practiced strangling dogs and cats before moving on to human victims. Serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer tortured animals and impaled the heads of cats and dogs on sticks. The Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo, put cats and dogs into orange crates and killed them by shooting arrows through the slats.
The link is also evident in many homes plagued by domestic violence. Batterers often try to control their victims, such as a partner or spouse, by threatening, torturing and/or killing the victim's animals. A study of women living in Wisconsin shelters because of domestic abuse found that 80 percent of their batterers had been violent to the women's animals. Listing animal abusers online would allow people to discover an abusive partner's background before it's too late.
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