Animal Abuse and Crime Does Research Proposal

Excerpt from Research Proposal :

A study by the Chicago Police Department found that persons who had been arrested for animal cruelty often had a history of other crimes as well (Chicago Police Department 2008). These offenses included homicides, narcotics charges, battery, firearms charges, sex crimes, and gang related activities (Chicago Police Department 2008).

A similar study found that animal cruelty was more common among incarcerated individuals with aggressive tendencies, then for non-aggressive individuals (Keller and Felthous 1985). The study found nine distinct motivations for animal cruelty. It also found a higher incidence of family violence, particularly paternal abuse, and alcoholism (Keller and Felthous 1985). Merz-Perex, Heide, and Silverman, (2001) also found a relationship between childhood animal cruelty and later violence towards other human beings.

The graduation hypothesis contends that children who are cruel to animals progress, or "graduate," to more serious crimes towards humans (Wright and Hensley, 2003). This theory contends that animal cruelty is a link that set eventual serial killers apart from the rest of society (Wright and Hensley, 2003). That is not to say the all that are cruel to animals will become serial killers. It is just to say the serial killers have a tendency towards animal cruelty as a child or adolescent.

Battered Pets: Battered Family

The above referenced literature demonstrates a strong connection between animal cruelty as children and those that are incarcerated as adults. However, one must be careful in the assumption that one automatically leads to the other. Individual circumstances differ, as do motivations. Just because someone abuses an animal does not automatically mean that they will eventually batter someone as an adult. However, the connections between the number of battered women and children who seek assistance through shelter and whose partners had threatened or attacked the family pet are astounding. This special area of literature requires attention.

Nearly 75% of domestic violence victims indicated that their partners had threatened or killed family pets at some time before the incidents of violence towards them or their children began (Faver and Strand 2003; Loring and Bolden-Hines 2004). Women often will not leave an abusive situation for fear of what the batterer will do to their animals (Ascione, Weber, and Thompson et al., 2007). Children living in violent homes are more likely to abuse animals (Currie, 2006). Another study found that batterers who harm animals commit more dangerous acts than those that did not abuse animals (Simmons and Lehmann 2007).

In a study of perpetrators of family violence, several common characteristics were found. The first is the pet-abusing batterers were less likely to show affection towards their pets than their non-abusing counterparts (Carlisle-Frank, Frank, and Nielson 2004). They were more likely to communicate through commands and threats. They were more likely to view animals as property (Carlisle-Frank, Frank, and Nielson 2004). They were more likely to scapegoat their pets for their own problems (Carlisle-Frank, Frank, and Nielson 2004). They were more likely to have unrealistic expectations about their pets and punish their pets frequently for normal animal behavior (Carlisle-Frank, Frank, and Nielson 2004). Pet-busing batterers will are more sensitive to life events, particularly those that they feel are caused by the pet (Carlisle-Frank, Frank, and Nielson 2004).

Pet abuse is one of the four standards used to detect battered women and children (Walton-Moss, Manganello, and Frye 2005). Children will often intervene in domestic disputes to save their animal. They will even go as far as allowing themselves to be abused to save an animal (Edelson, Mbilinyi, and Beeman, 2003). The abused animal and the abused child often share a special common bond.


The problem with these studies is that they used a population that had already committed a crime. These studies established a reverse direction of causality that makes animal abuse appear to be a predictive factor, when this may not actually be the case. A majority of the studies used a different factor as the independent variable. For instance, they used previous crime and conviction, battered women and other factors as the common factor that linked the subjects. Animal abuse served as a dependent variable.

In order to develop predictive abilities, studies must be conducted where animal abuse is used as the independent variable and the commission of crime is the dependent variable. This type of study is needed to do what other studies examined during the literature review attempted to do in the establishment of causality. This research will fill this important gap in literature regarding animal abuse and the tendency to commit crime at some time in the future.

Section 3: Selected Methodology

The literature review revealed that the topic of animal cruelty and its association with deviant behavior is well researched. It was suggested that animal cruelty is predictive of later adult behavior. However, none of the studies review addressed this issue in a manner that would allow such conclusions to be drawn. All of the studies found addressed the issue to animal cruelty as an adolescent after the fact. None of them tested the predictability of adolescent animal cruelty in connection with adult behaviors. This study will address the topic of animal cruelty as a predecessor of later criminal behavior using a longitudinal study.

Study Design

In order to determine the connection between animal cruelty and later criminal behavior, animal cruelty must be treated as the dependent variable, rather than the independent variable as in other studies. In this study, two groups of adolescents between the ages of 12-15 will be selected. One group will have abused an animal in some manner prior to the time of the survey. The other group will not have abused an animal and will have strong feelings against such behaviors. These two groups will be administered a survey profiling their feelings and past actions regarding animal cruelty. Both groups will be followed until the age of 18, at which time they will be surveyed to determine if they have engaged in criminal behavior.

The age of 18 was chosen for the post-test for criminal behavior for several reasons. At the age of 18, it will have been between 3-5 years since the pre-test. If the tendency towards criminal behavior is present, it is reasonable that it will have surfaced by then. Even if the subject has not engaged in actual criminal behavior, certain patterns and attitudes will be present that may lead to criminal acts in the future. At the age of 18, it is expected that many of the subjects will still be in high school. Therefore, they will still be available to take the criminal behavior survey.


The subjects for this study will consist of males, aged 12-15 years of age that are attending local metropolitan junior high schools and high schools. Potential subjects will be identified with the assistance of school staff and guidance counselors. The goal will be to identify a group of adolescent males within the target age range, that have the tendency towards animal cruelty and one group that does not have the tendency towards animal cruelty. A target size of 200 students for each group will be the goal.

Students will be divided into the two groups through a screening survey administered by the school guidance counselors. A list of potential candidates will be provided to the researcher. As the subjects will be under the age of 18, parental permission must be obtained for participation in this study.


The research will take place in several metropolitan junior high schools and high schools. School administration will assist with data collection. They will administer and select both sets of surveys and return them using a sealed manila envelope to the researcher at the scheduled time. The researcher will coordinate with school administration regarding the most convenient time for drop off and pick up of the surveys for both the pre-test and post-test.

Survey Instruments

Both the pre-test and post-test survey instruments will be developed by the research, specifically for the purpose of this study. The pre-test will rely on information discovered during the literature review as the basis for the development of the survey questions. The post-test will repeat some of the questions regarding animal cruelty that were included on the pre-test.

This will serve as a validity measure for the pre-test. It will also eliminate those whose attitudes towards animal cruelty have changed. It is expected that adolescents whose attitudes towards animal cruelty have changed represent a third group that will not be addressed in the study, but that will have an affect on the outcome of the study. There may also be some students that were non-abusers at the beginning of the study, but that later become abusers. These two groups that changed attitude represent a threat to the internal validity of the study.

Students that change their attitudes towards animal cruelty are not expected to represent a major portion of the study participants, but it is possible that some…

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