Lessons in Compassion
The greatest gift you can give your child, and thus all of society, is a sense of responsibility. In our world of materialism we have substituted giving toys for the giving of our time. Gandhi said: “The greatness of a nation, and its moral progress, can be judged by the way that its animals are treated.” Teaching kindness is not a new concept. In 1693, English philosopher, John Locke said: “People should be accustomed, from their cradles, to be tender to all creatures, and to spoil or waste nothing at all.”
Consider the evidence concluded from the following studies:
A 1985 study found that a child who learns aggression against living creatures is more likely to rape, abuse, and kill other humans as an adult.
In a 1983 study, 88% of families where physical abuse occurred, animals in that home were also abused. In about two thirds of the cases, the abusive parent had killed or injured the animals to discipline a child.
A 1988 study of twenty eight rapist-murderers found that 36 percent had engaged in acts of animal cruelty in childhood, and 46 percent during adolescence.
In a study of prison inmates, 48 percent of the rapists and 30 percent of the child molesters admitted to having been cruel to animals.
Animal abuse is present in nearly 90 percent of the pet owning homes where there is physical abuse of children. Other colleagues have found that over 70 percent of pet-owning women who seek protection in women’s’ shelters have had a loved pet threatened, injured or killed by their abusers. The victimization of animals has also been associated with the abuse of the elderly and the disabled.
How Mass Murderers Start Out:
As a child, Jeffrey Dahmer enjoyed torturing animals, impaling frogs and cats, and beheading a dog. As an adult, he graduated to killing and dismembering at least 17 people, freezing their body parts and eating them.
New York City’s most notorious serial killer, David Berkowitz, called Son of Sam, was known by neighbors for killing local pets.
Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, who killed and maimed people by mailing them letter bombs, had a history of abusing cats.
Ted Bundy, who is thought to have killed over 100 women in years of random murder sprees, enjoyed killing animals as a child.
Albert DeSalvo, better known as the Boston Strangler, first learned to enjoy killing by trapping dogs and cats in orange crates and shooting them with arrows.
Pedophile and child murderer Jesse Timmendequas endured years of childhood abuse, during which family pets were tortured in front of him. Later, his crimes against children inspired “Megan’s Law,” which requires that neighbors be notified of the presence of sex criminals.
Outside Atlanta in 1998, Mark Barton shot his eight year old daughter’s kitten and then pretended to lead her on a search for the dead pet. a few months later, in July 1999, he went on a shooting rampage in Atlanta, killing 13 people, including himself, and wounding 13 others.
A New Trend – Children Who Kill:
In April 1999, Littleton, Colorado, Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, brought guns and bombs into Columbine High School. There, they killed a dozen of their fellow students and one teacher before killing themselves. These youngsters had often spoken of mutilating animals, and Klebold enjoyed shooting woodpeckers.
In Springfield, Oregon, in May 1998, Kip Kinkel, 15, walked into his high school cafeteria and opened fire, killing two classmates and wounding 22 others. His parents were found later that day, shot to death in their home. Kinkel had a long history of animal abuse and often bragged about torturing and killing animals.
In October 1997, in Pearl, Mississippi, Luke Woodham, 16, stabbed to death his mother and then went on to his school, where he shot and killed two students and wounded 7 others. He had earlier written in his journal of the “true beauty” of beating, torturing and killing his dog, Sparkle.
In May 1999, in Conyers, Georgia, Anthony “T.J.” Solomon went on a shooting rampage at Heritage high school, injuring 6 students. His psychologist testified on his behalf that he was a troubled youth, and, “When he shot animals with guns, he loved to look into their eyes and watch them die and wonder what it was like on the other side.”
A society that condones large scale, institutionalized, recreational killing of animals may be inadvertently encouraging susceptible individuals to commit acts of violence towards humans. Again, this is not new thinking. In the 1700’s, German philosopher, Immanuel Kant said: “He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” Man deliberately torments, injures and kills other creatures as though they were created to provide him with amusement and sport. Such thinking is the height of absurdity, and evidence of moral degeneracy.
How do I teach compassion?
We must embrace and teach the concept that animals and other life forms should be respected, protected, and cherished – not because they may be useful to humans, but for their own sake.
Conference looks at connection between animal cruelty and violence
Daily Press News Editor
MONTROSE By now, the link between animal cruelty and sensational crimes perpetrated by the Jeffrey Dahmers of this world is legendary. It’s also real, and a problem that must be addressed even if violence against animals might not lead a person to commit serial murder, it often escalates to violence against humans.
“You cannot extricate one (type of violence) from another,” Diane Balkin, a Denver-area prosecutor, told those gathered for “The Link” training session at the Montrose Pavilion Monday. “This is a matter of public safety.”
The training was jointly sponsored by the Dolphin House Child Advocacy Center and Montrose County Animal Services to highlight the link between animal cruelty, domestic violence and child abuse.
Animal abuse defined under state and local statutes as physical/sexual abuse, endangerment, neglect, medical neglect, hoarding (having more animals than one can adequately care for) and abandonment results in death for an estimated 62 percent of known animals victims each year nationwide. According to Balkin’s statistics, 71 percent of these are domestic pets, followed by livestock (18 percent); wildlife (4 percent) and exotic animals (2 percent). More than half of known cases involve intentional abuse or torture and 43 percent involve neglect to the point of starvation or failure to provide care.
Beyond the harm to animals is harm to humans and attendant social ills, Balkin and fellow presenter Kay Dahlinger, chief probation officer in Aurora, stressed.
For instance, though not every person who abuses animals becomes a serial killer, Balkin said every known serial killer has a history of harming animals. A history of arson is also statistically common among violent offenders who abuse animals and animal abusers are five times as likely as others to commit violent crimes. Most high school shooters though according to Balkin, the evidence for Columbine High School murderers Eric Klebold and Dylan Harris remains anecdotal have had a history of hurting animals.
A survey of battered women revealed that 82 percent had to live with threats against family pets as a means of control or retaliation. In approximately 62 percent of these cases, at least one pet was killed.
Up to 70 percent of women do not leave their abusers because crisis shelters will not accept pets and they don’t want to leave the animal at the offender’s mercy. Dahlinger told conference attendees of a woman who did leave her abuser, only to return when he sent photos of her pet’s ears being cut off.
In Montrose, Animal Control Officer Mike Duncan is willing to provide shelter to animals threatened by an abusive spouse until the victim can leave a crisis shelter. The Denver area has safe havens specifically for pet protection in such cases.
The correlations between animal cruelty and familial abuse are clear, Balkin reported. “Quite frankly, it is more rare to see one (form of abuse) in isolation,” she said.
“It’s power and control. Often, a pet is used as a tool to keep a child quiet. …In more cases than you can imagine, there is threatening of an animal. That is a form of domestic violence.”
Animal cruelty can be the result of a trickle-down effect of violence in the home, Balkin added. Children who see abuse or who are abused have been known to learn the behavior and in turn take out their frustrations on the one family member they can exert control over the dog or cat.
There is also a sexual component to animal abuse, from bestiality, to taking trophy photos or videos that allow the offender to relive his or her crime.
Balkin told of Samson, a Chow dog whose 17-year-old owner killed and sodomized him with a tree branch before leaving the dog’s body in a public place with a makeshift cross and note that declared: “A work of the next king. It’s pure art.”
The boy had been sexually abused, but his mother apparently wrote off his history of fire-setting “because the fires were small.”
Animal cruelty is also nothing new. It has been documented as far back as the 1700s, when woodcuts show a character who begins abusing dogs in the school yard, progresses to other crimes, and finally, is executed for murdering his lover. In the United States, a concerted effort to protect animals was begun in 1866 when Henry Burgher founded the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Colorado’s animal cruelty statutes date back to 1889 and were so comprehensive that the language of today’s statutes is almost identical.
The key difference: 2002’s legislation making knowingly or intentionally killing or torturing an animal a felony a change made following outcry over the matter of Westy, a cat set on fire and thrown from a vehicle in Westminster, Colo. (Westy, though horrifically injured, survived and was adopted).
It’s frequently such cases that have turned the tide of public and legislative perception, Balkin said. In 1992, only seven states had felony animal cruelty statutes; by 2003, 41 states, including Colorado, had it on the books.
“The days of ‘boys will be boys’ or, “it’s just a dog or a stray cat’ are over,” Balkin said.
A Hotchkiss attendee said, however, that she still encounters that mindset. “Over and over again,” she said she saw the attitude “that, ‘They’re just dogs.'”
In what often begins as misguided love of animals, others condemn pets to what Balkin called a fate worse death by hoarding or collecting them to the point that they overrun the home.
She pointed to a Cortez hoarding case in which a destitute elderly couple kept dozens of cats in a fifth-wheel trailer at a local campground. Graphic photos showed rescue members wading through feces and discarded food cans, along with the bones of starved or cannibalized cats, and kittens found dead in a freezer. Some 39 cats were recovered alive, though many had to be euthanized. The couple was declared unfit for pet ownership and prosecuted.
Balkin said it was important to follow awareness of animal cruelty with action. “I have impressed upon Denver that if there’s any indication it’s (abuse) intentional, go for state prosecution,” she said. Penalties are tougher under state law than under most municipal codes. Conviction can also result in a mandatory evaluation and treatment.
“The earlier we intervene, the better off the community is and the (abusive) individual,” Balkin said. “The way we break this cycle is education, intervention and collaboration.”
One out-of-town attendee said, however, that prosecutors weren’t always receptive. The unidentified woman said that despite the evidence she’d presented in her local jurisdiction, they had showed little interest and cited existing case overload.
Dahlinger acknowledged a collaborative effort is more difficult to achieve in smaller communities, but said it was worth the effort. In Aurora in 1999, for instance, her office realized the lack of communication between emergency and law enforcement agencies was affecting the way animal abuse cases were addressed. She worked to bring the agencies together and they formed a specific action plan as to agency response.
“Once you get collaboration going, you will be besieged with calls,” Dahlinger said. “The reason you have to collaborate is, you have to arrest, you have to prosecute and you have to do something with the offender after. …It isn’t just a cat or a dog anymore. It’s a victim.”
Kay Alexander, director of Dolphin House, said she would like to see Montrose develop a specific action plan for addressing the problem, but that some agencies are already working toward that end. “We have a ways to go, but the time is appropriate because of the groundwork that’s been laid,” she said.
“We need to make sure we’ve got that community willingness to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”
We live in a society that seems consumed with cultivating our youth; from being sure they are eating healthy foods to making the most advanced technological devices available to them. The computers they play games on are more powerful than the ones originally used to put a man on the moon. This is a great investment in our next generation but sometimes, where we drop the ball is in the message.
Almost every video game I have seen has revolved around being rewarded for killing or destroying the most of whatever is portrayed as the enemy. While these games are often passed off as being games of skill, the underlying message is not conducive to creating a more compassionate and thought provoking society. Despite the justifications we make for it, using violence to entertain is not an intelligent thing to do in the long run.
Children are captivated by animals from the very beginning. As a parent or teacher you can use that natural connection to teach children a lot about how to use computers, how to improve their motor skills and how to spell and read.
Big Cat Rescue provides a safe online environment for all of those learning habits in our pages under the Free Stuff > Games link. La Wanna Jones, Rainie Cass and James Northrup are the giants in online games for children. La Wanna is the web mistress for www.spfdbus.com and is the biggest provider of puzzles and games for our site. She came here for a photo tour and must have taken several thousand breathtaking photos. Over the past year she has turned them into online story books, dragger puzzles, flash puzzles, screen savers, jigsaw puzzles and more. She has also created big cat themed word games and quizzes for us, all at no charge. Rainie has created our own cat caricature of Shere Khan that we use as a mascot on these pages, a skill stop machine, kukee camera, dress up the tiger, colouring pages and lots more. She links her major kid’s site called Billy Bear’s Playground ( www.billybear4kids.com ) to us as well to help drive traffic to us. James hosts a site called Tiny Tot Books ( http://www.tinytotbooks.com ) and has developed and donated a line of puzzle cards that have sounds and animations that children can email to each other.
As a result Big Cat Rescue has a massive children’s section that can keep children entertained and learning for hours. Unlike games of destruction, these games all focus on conservation and compassion, because whatever a child thinketh, so is he.
What can kids do for the animals?
Be kind to animals.
Make sure your friends are too.
Learn about animals so you can be their voice.
Write your congressman. We make it easy at www.CatLaws.com
Don’t wear or play with things made out of real animals.
If you see fur for sale at a store tell the manager that it’s cruel to kill animals for their fur.
Don’t go to animal shows or circuses that use animals.
Never pay someone to touch a baby tiger or take your picture with one.
Don’t let people bring wild animals to your school. They aren’t props!
Recycle ink cartridges and cell phones at bigcatrescue.org/ink
Do a fundraiser for the big cats by selling magazines at www.MagFundraising.com/bigcatrescue
Or you can wash cars, mow yards, walk the neighbor’s dogs or have a yard or bake sale.
Do a zoo check to find out if your zoo is dumping animals when the next babies come.
Ask to see where the animals are kept when the zoo isn’t open. Most of these animals spend half their lives shut in small cells.
Try making fewer of your meals out of dead animals. Soy is protein from plants and better for you anyway. Go Veg!
Pick up litter. Lots of wild animals are killed from eating or being trapped in litter.
Spay or neuter your pets. Hundreds of thousands of pets are killed each year because there are more babies than homes.
Micro chip your pets so they can always find their way home.