It is thought that animal abuse by children is an exploratory stage of their development. This could be true; however, the intensity and motivation for this abuse must be explored. Educating children that all living creatures experience pain and suffering, including animals, and discussing the similarities between us and animals should develop empathy and go a long way towards preventing future cruelty.
At this stage children/teenagers are exploring their self image and thinking about their relationships with others. Research has indicated that, during these years, teens can be affected by violence; therefore, discussions about animal cruelty should still be filtered. It should be made clear that, as adults, we do not condone violence. Children are affected by the words and actions of adults and rely upon them as role models.
If a child grows up in an environment filled with violence there could be other reasons behind his/her motivation to harm animals. For instance, they may be forced by an adult to abuse an animal and then this may be used to coerce them into silence about being abused themselves. This can lead the child to feel powerless and therefore seek out their own victims to exert control over and gain power. They may well abuse a pet, a sibling or a peer in order to seek revenge for their own maltreatment. Animal abuse may also be part of an initiation rite for becoming a gang member.
It is the belief of the DSPCA that all animal abuse situations are taken seriously. We should never disregard acts of animal cruelty as childish pranks; otherwise we are giving children ‘permission to inflict pain without fear of being punished;’ this is according to Richard De Angleis. We must also understand why children abuse animals in order to put in place intervention strategies.
So, what are the effects of animal abuse on the abuser?
Animal abuse can be an indicator of the likelihood of future acts of violence. Abusers and children who witness abuse may become desensitized to violence and may lose the ability to empathise with victims. The only way to stop the abuse is intervention. The earlier we intervene the higher the rate of success.
Read more on Animal Cruelty.
(Source: De Angleis, Richard, The Vicious Circle. Animal Guardian Vol 11; No 3, 1998 Pg 9. Arkow, Phil, 1998, Linking the Circle of Violence.)