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

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