More than 90 percent of serial killers in the U.S. admitted to having abused animals at some point in their lives.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has been compiling data on the connection between animal cruelty and human violence for the past 20 years.
Among the most infamous serial killers who admitted to abusing animals were the Son of Sam, Ted Bundy, the Boston Strangler and Jeffrey Dahmer, according to Arnold Baer, HSUS director of field services.
Baer told The Sun that the Animal Defenders of Yuma brought him to speak at Arizona Western College Tuesday night to reach audiences of different professionals to stress the importance of paying attention to animal abuse and pooling resources to ensure kids hurting animals are given counseling, so they do not grow up to commit criminal violence against people.
"A much higher percentage of violent criminals have had animal abuse in their backgrounds than those that don't," said Baer of studies done on incarcerated criminals.
Baer said the HSUS program is called "First Strike" because "the first strike against an animal may be the first strike in a lifetime of violence."
Over 90 percent of intentional abuse of animals is committed by males, Baer said.
"Most are between the ages of 18 and
Baer said he hopes that if those attending his talk see a child, teen or young adult abusing an animal, that they are "aware that this could become more serious."
He said one reason animals are abused first is because they are often easier to find than human targets.
Baer said he hopes judges, prosecutors and district attorneys begin to see connections, such as the teen they had in court three years ago for beating his dog is now the adult in court for beating his wife.
"We're trying to show them to take these things seriously," Baer said. "Horrendous things are done to animals.
"It's used for control, too, a lot of times. A spouse will threaten to hurt an animal in a domestic abuse situation," Baer said.
He said there were indications in several school shootings, including Columbine, that shooters had abused animals at some point in their lives.
"It's very intuitive," Baer said. "Setting a cat on fire, beating a dog or shooting at birds ... there is a half-decent chance maybe that person is going to continue this behavior or move onto something bigger as they get older."
He said it is important that an adult recognize this behavior for what it is, citing Jeffrey Dahmer's father as knowing his son collected dogs' skulls, but thinking his child was showing an interest in science.
"We feel that counseling can be very important and prevents this from happening. We strongly suggest, especially when you find this behavior in children, you get them counseling and try to nip it in the bud," Baer said.
His goal for his presentation is to unite social workers, child advocates, law enforcement, judges, prosecutors and district attorneys to form a local coalition where they share information about animal abusers.
One problem facing Yuma lately has been what Baer calls "animal hoarders," usually women, who do not intentionally abuse animals, but neglect them by failing to provide adequate food and water.
Baer said while it is important for the public to be aware of these type of animal abusers and to call law enforcement or the humane society about them, the majority of animal abusers who will most likely become violent criminals are males who commit "intentional abject cruelty to animals, especially in their teenage years."
Nicole Squibbs can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6855.