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Fast Facts About Anti-Cruelty Laws
  • 50 states and DC have anti-cruelty laws that make intentionally killing a cat a crime.  
  • 46 states and DC have felony penalties for aggravated acts of animal cruelty.  
  • Eight states authorize courts to include animals in protective orders in domestic violence cases.  
  • 28 states authorize mental health evaluations or counseling upon conviction of anti-cruelty charges.

Violence Has Many Victims

Psychiatric and criminological research has established a relationship between cruelty to animals and a host of other violent behaviors.

This research suggests that a single violent individual may lash out against multiple defenseless victims, and that any aggressive act—regardless of the identity of the victim—may be a predictor of future violent acts, as well as an indicator of current antisocial behavior. Ongoing research is exploring why people become aggressive and how that violence becomes a pattern of behavior.

Researchers are also investigating the negative consequences of children and adults witnessing acts of violence towards animals and humans, and how and why those witnesses are more likely to become violent themselves.

Listed below is a selection of the research articles published about the link between cruelty to animals and other forms of violence.

Research Linking Cruelty to Animals to Other Forms of Violence

Ascione, Fred. "Animal Abuse and Youth Violence." US Department of Justice Juvenile Justice Bulletin 1 (2001): 1-15.

Faver, Catherine A., and Elizabeth B. Strand. "To Leave or to Stay?: Battered Women’s Concern for Vulnerable Pets." Journal of Interpersonal Violence 18 (2003): 1367-1377.

Hensley, Christopher, and Suzanne E. Tallichet. “Learning to be Cruel?: Exploring the Onset and Frequency of Animal Cruelty.” International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology 49 (2005): 37-47.

Lockwood, Randall, and Frank R. Ascione, eds. 1980. Cruelty to Animals and Interpersonal Violence: Readings in Research and Application. Ashland: PurdueUniversity Press.

Merz-Perez, Linda, Kathleen M. Heide, and Ira J. Silvermann. "Childhood Cruelty to Animals and Subsequent Violence against Humans." International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology 45 (2001): 556-573.