Factors in the Assessment of Dangerousness in Perpetrators of Animal Cruelty - Animal Law Source

Factors in the Assessment of Dangerousness in Perpetrators of Animal Cruelty

Factors in the Assessment of Dangerousness in Perpetrators of Animal Cruelty

by Randall Lockwood, Ph.D.

We are frequently called upon to assist cruelty investigators, law-enforcement officers, court officials or mental health professionals in evaluating the significance of an individual’s involvement in a particular act of animal cruelty as an indicator of dangerousness or possible risk for involvement of future acts of violence against others. The relatively low level of attention given to even the most serious acts of animal abuse has made it difficult to systematically or quantitatively assess the various factors that should be considered in evaluating the potential significance of various violent acts against animals. However, the following factors are suggested as relevant criteria in such evaluations. They are based on several sources including:

  1. Retrospective studies of acts of cruelty against animals reported by violent offenders
  2. Studies and reports of acts of animal cruelty committed prior to or in association with child abuse and/or domestic violence
  3. Extrapolation from criteria used in threat assessment by the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime
  4. Extrapolation from numerous studies on general characteristics of habitual violent offenders

There is, as yet, no absolute scale that determines when a particular collection of factors reaches critical levels. It is suggested, conservatively, that more than five of these aggravating factors should be cause for serious concern, and that more than ten can indicate a high potential that the offender has been or will be involved in serious acts of violence against people.

Victim Vulnerability

Number of Victims

Number of Instances Within a Limited Time Frame

Severity of Injury Inflicted

Repetition of Injuries on Individual Victim(s)

Multiple Forms of Injury to Individual Victim(s)

Intimacy of Infliction of Injury

Victim(s) is Bound or Otherwise Physically Incapacitated

Use of Fire

Duration of Abuse

Degree of Pre-planning or Premeditation

Act Involved Overcoming Obstacles to Initiate or Complete the Abuse

Act Was Committed With High Risk of Detection or Observation

Other Illegal Acts Were Committed at the Scene of the Animal Cruelty

Individual was the Instigator of an Act Involving Multiple Perpetrators

Animal Cruelty was used to Threaten, Intimidate or Coerce a Human Victim

Act of Animal Cruelty was Indicative of Hypersensitivity to Real or Perceived Threats or Slights

Absence of Economic Motive

Past History of Positive Interactions with Victim

Animal Victim was Subjected to Mutilation or Postmortem Dismemberment

Act of Cruelty was Accompanied by Indicators of Sexual Symbolism Associated with the Victim

Perpetrator Projected Human Characteristics onto Victim

Perpetrator Documented the Act of Animal Abuse Through Photographs, Video or Audio Recording, or Diary Entries

Perpetrator Returned at Least Once to Scene of Abuse, to Relive the Experience

Perpetrator Left Messages or Threats in Association with the Act of Cruelty

Animal Victim was Posed or Otherwise Displayed

Animal Cruelty was Accompanied by Ritualistic or “Satanic” Actions

Act of Abuse Involved Staging or Reenactment of Themes from Media of Fantasy Sources

Perpetrator Reportedly Experienced Alstered Consciousness During the Violent Act

Perpetrator Reportedly Experienced Strong Positive Affective Changes During the Violent Act

Perpetrator Sees Himself as the Victim in this Event and/or Projects Blame onto Others

Perpetrator Lacks Insight into Cause or Motivation of the Animal Abuse