Shocked at animal abuse stories

Published 9:11 pm Saturday, June 11, 2011

It’s hard to know whether the run of recent headlines announcing animal cruelty charges represents an increase in the number of actual cases of animal cruelty or if the compassion that I and many others feel for animals just makes us more alert to such cases when they’re in the news.

A couple of weeks ago, a 12-year-old boy was arrested in Suffolk and charged with abusing and nearly killing a cat. His charge could be upgraded from misdemeanor status to a felony if the cat, which subsequently died while recuperating, is determined to have succumbed to the injuries it received when it was thrown against a wall and then beaten with a stick.

And then last week, another case of possible feline abuse was reported, when police responded to a call reporting a kitten in distress in an apartment building on Franklin Street. Arriving, they found the kitten shut in an apartment building’s hallway without food, water or air conditioning. A veterinarian later had to euthanize the kitten, noting that it had “some congenital issues,” according to Suffolk spokesperson Debbie George.

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No charges have been filed in the second incident, though an investigation continues.

Such stories are hard for many of us to comprehend. Those of us who have had pets, especially, wonder how someone could be so callous as to intentionally hurt a defenseless animal. Surely there are many people who have never been around pets and do not love them to the degree that others do, but even those people normally don’t behave in such evil ways toward small animals.

The issue becomes even more frightening when we consider that, according to several studies and the research of agents in the FBI’s behavioral sciences unit, there is often a correlation between violence done to animals and violence done to humans. In fact, according to the research of a district attorney from Oregon, some of America’s most infamous torturers and murderers — including Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy and Albert DeSalvo (known as the Boston Strangler) — are known to have tortured and killed animals when they were boys.

Of course, not everyone who abuses animals goes on to become a serial killer. But the evidence is pretty strong that animal abuse is an indicator of a strong predisposition to the type of sociopathic behavior that results in the abuse and even murder of humans.

Clearly society can gain from the strict punishment and effective counseling of those convicted of abusing animals. And both the people and animals of Suffolk have every right to expect that justice in such cases is swift, sure and severe, whether that punishment is seen as rehabilitative, retributive or merely a means of incapacitating a person whose behavior is highly likely to escalate to even more appalling stages.

In response to the recent spate of crimes against animals, Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Phillips “Phil” Ferguson will speak on the topic of animal abuse and his department’s response to it during a meeting of the Suffolk Humane Society at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. The meeting, which will be held at the Magnolia Ruritan Club, is open to the public. I look forward to hearing his comments on the matter.