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Animal abuse in children is not normal and may be a sign that they pose a risk to themselves and to others
Studies show that when children are exposed to violence they have a greater likelihood of becoming a violent offender
Animal cruelty is a warning sign for at-risk youth.
Neuropsychological research shows that a childhood lack of empathy is often inherited.
Continued physical aggression with animals by elementary school boys increases the likelihood they will commit continued physical violence as well as other nonviolent forms of delinquency during adolescence.
A child who abuses animals may also be acting out against violence in his own home.
Professional intervention can remove a child from a potentially abusive situation and divert him or her from future abusive behavior.
Early prevention and treatment of animal cruelty is the key to stopping the cycle of violence, because as aggressive children get older, they are less responsive to therapeutic intervention.
A balanced approach to juvenile justice includes:
– Holding juvenile offenders accountable for their actions
– Enhancing community safety
– Developing the offender’s competencies to become a contributing member of society
*It is important to assess the rehabilitative possibilities for the juvenile and use them early on. Researchers believe that with early treatment sociopathic children, they can be re-wired to experience greater empathy and be less at risk for future violence.
Prosecutors must balance the interests of the community, juvenile offender, and animal.
Transporting a young offender to a hospital for psychiatric treatment in lieu of proceeding with the case may result in the youth not receiving the long-term treatment and intervention needed.
Since cruelty can be indicative of family violence, juvenile or family court may be the most appropriate venue.
– This allows an assessment of the family dynamic to provide an overall treatment plan
There are no provisions for automatic waiver and transfer from juvenile to adult court for acts of animal cruelty.
Transfer determination will take into account: how serious and aggressive the offense is, the degree of violence, premeditation, and the interpersonal nature of the crime.
Prosecutor should consider the following:
– Psychological evaluation and specialized treatment addressing abuse of animals
– Restricting the juvenile from being around animals, including family pets
– Humane education programs such as Anicare-Child
Rehabilitation and efforts to prevent recidivism of harm towards animals and/or progression of harm towards people is critical.
The key to avoid the juvenile becoming an adult offender is ensuring that the youth receives the proper treatment balanced with the appropriate punishment to deter future violence.