Running Head: DISSERTATION PROSPECTUS
Exploring the Reasons People Abuse Animals
Domestic animal abuse is a significant problem in the United States, however actual
rates of abuse are unknown. The animal abuse problem is more prevalent than the what is reported as it is estimated that the vast majority of domestic animal abuse cases are never reported or detected (Humane Society, n.d.). Animal mistreatment and negligence is a national
concern, and has also been found to be correlated with other violent crimes (cite). Brutality to
animals is defined as administering bodily pain, grieving, or at some extreme point the death
on an animal (Abubakar, Manzoor, & Iqbal, 2018). Due to the widespread prevalence of domestic animal abuse and correlation with other crimes, it is important to understand why people abuse animals and how can animal abuse be prevented and detected.
There are various notions of how cruelty on animals starts (Arluke, 2017). One of
them being abusers pre-established psychological state that consents them to begin mistreating animals and at some point, the situation might bring about the death of the animal (Sollund, 2017). Most of the cases are not detected, and many animal abusers tend to continue
with the act thus the rising instances (Altschuler, 2017). The focus of this research will be on
understanding why people abuse animals, and determining ways that animal abuse can be
prevented and detected. Findings from this research could help to inform policy(s) at various
levels that prevent and deter animal abuse.
There are two primary purposes to this research. The first is to understand why people
abuse animals. The second purpose is to determine ways that animal abuse can be prevented
and detected. As mentioned previously, research shows that animal abuse is correlated with
other violent crimes and it is estimated that a vast majority of animal abuse goes completely
unreported (Humane Society, n.d.). This qualitative research study seeks to increase the
understanding of these two important points, increase the body of literature on this topic, and
hopefully positively impact social change by informing policy(s) in this area.
This study will contribute to filling the gap on furthering the understanding of the reasons that people abuse animals, as well as better understanding how animal abuse can be prevented and detected. This study can make an original contribution by focusing on and reporting the knowledge of current field practitioners on these issues. This research can support
professional practice and practical application by revealing the reasons that people abuse animals, and determining ways to prevent and detect animal abuse through the lived experiences
of field practitioners and experts. As mentioned previously, animal abuse is a serious issue
not only because of the defenceless animals involved, but also the fact that animal abuse is
often correlated with other violent crimes. The research findings can lead to positive social
change by sharing the insights of field practitioners and experts. Determining the reasons and
circumstances in which people abuse animals is one of the first steps in proactively addressing this problem. Further, understanding how to increase prevention and detection is also an
important step in reducing animal abuse.
Earlier studies on this issue were carried out and similar findings provided by studies
carried out by Arluke (2017), Sollund (2017) and Altschuler (2017). Common findings were
presented and similar trends noted in the animal abuse globally. The conclusions of the study
by Altschuler (2017) showed that most of the cases are not detected and many animal abusers
tend to continue with the act thus the rising instances. In a different study carried out on the
theme of animal abuse by Arluke (2017), a similar finding to the basis of animal abuse was
provided, i.e., the abuser's pre-established psychological state that consents them to begin
mistreating animals and at some point, the situation might bring about the death of the animal.
Some of the resources that provide detailed information on the earlier studies carried
out by various teams on the issue of animal abuse are listed as follows:
Arluke, A. (2017). Just a dog: Understanding animal cruelty and ourselves. Temple
Altschuler, E. L. (2017). Animal-Assisted Therapy for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder:
Lessons from "Case Reports" in Media Stories. Military medicine, 183(1-2), 11-13.
Sollund, R. (2017). Causes for speciesism: Difference, distance, and denial. In Transnational Environmental Crime(pp. 75-96). Routledge.University Press.
As observed from the statement of the problem, the incidences concerned with animal
abuse, cruelty, mistreatment, and brutality are alarming. Theoretically, two theories will be
used to inform the approach to this research. These theories are the routine activity theory and
the deterrence theory. These theoretical frameworks will be used to inform the research that
will answer the research questions of why people abuse animals and how animal abuse can be
prevented and detected.
The deterrence theory was developed from the work of Hobbes, Bentham, and Beccaria. The theory is made up of three fundamental components: Certainty, severity, and celebrity. It ascertains that the more severe a punishment is, the higher the probability that was rationally calculating individuals will desist from any given criminal act (Ascione & Ascione,
2010, p. 87). Based on this theoretical perspective, it alludes that if the animal abusers are
given this sentencing objective based on the theory, it would ultimately discourage the people
in conjunction with other animal offenders from committing animal brutality crimes. The
idea regarding the deterrence theory is that the objective for sentencing an offender is that ensure that there is a reduction of the crime through the example of punishment or threat to the
population at large.
There exist two divergent views regarding the deterrence theory: Specific deterrence
and general deterrence. Specific deterrence is based on the assumption that in the case of animal abuse, the sentence is adjusted with a view of deterring the animal abuser before the
court and convincing the accused not to re-abuse the animal once again. On the other hand,
general deterrence refers to the act of inducing others who had an agenda of abusing animals
not to do so. Since animal abuse as a crime is fairly common, then a general deterrence would
work better to stop the act. In theory, the concept of denudation might be employed to curb
the activity (Ascione & Ascione, 2010, p. 74). In general sense, denudation refers to the act of
convincing the entire community or public that the offense in question is a typical true crime,
a far much serious crime whereby respectable individuals will shun from and not technical,
obsolete or minor. It informs every individual and reassures law-abiding that the relationship
between animal abuse and punishment it is taken into account as logical and just.
On the other hand, the routine activity theory coined in 1979 by Cohen and Felson
calls for three elements to prevail before the occurrence of a crime. These elements must be
prevalent before there is an occurrence of a crime: A target or suitable victim, a motivated offender having inherently criminal intentions in conjunction with the ability to act regarding
these inclinations and the absence of a potential guardian who might prevent the happening of
the crime. These fundamental elements must converge in time and space for a crime to occur.
The theory provides a macro perspective on animal abuse in the sense that it provides insights
on how the changes in economic and social conditions influence the overall animal brutality
and victimization rate (Beirne, 2016, p. 87). Based on the theory it can be postulated that
abusing animals as a crime is a “structurally significant phenomenon” which means that the
violations are neither trivial nor random events. Therefore, it can be assumed that people
abuse animals since animals are there and that in the case animals would not have been present then this could not be happening.
This study will be theoretically based on deterrence theory and routine activity theories. The theory of deterrence explains how punishment can discourage repetition of crime as
observed in punitive behavior that results in cruelty against animals (Robert, Lebow & Stein,
1985). In exploring the motives of people abusing animals, this theory is useful in highlighting what behaviors relating to retaliation, control, prejudice and hostility in human beings influence animal abuse by the same people possessing those behaviors. On the other hand, application of routine activity theory explains in details how people select target animal victims
to abuse, their motivation and the impact of the absence of animal rights champions in promoting continued crime of animal abuse (Cohen & Felson, 1979). In essence, the environment under which these crimes against animals occur will be put into perspective. The contribution of these theories in considerations of Arluke (2017) assertion, greatly informs the
influencing activities, behaviors, and motives of inflicting pain, threatening, neglecting and
even killing animals thereby facilitating the dissertation critical analysis and recommendations. A qualitative exploratory data of individuals and law enforcement agents on animal
abuse presents a justifiable method of exploring the phenomena under this study with a slight
focus on quantitative data.
RQ1-Qualitative: Why do people abuse animals?
RQ2-Qualitative: How can incidents of animal abuse be detected?
RQ3-Qualitative: How can animal abuse be prevented?
Nature of the Study
This is a qualitative research study and aligns with answering the research questions
which seek to understand some of the whys and hows regarding animal abuse. Use of qualitative method in collecting behavioral data is appropriate and yields accurate and reliable results (Wilson, 2018).
Possible Types and Data Sources
Individual interviews will be conducted with professionals from the veterinary field
and law enforcement officers with specific experience dealing with cases of animal abuse.
These individuals will have significant knowledge regarding animal abuse and can share their
experiences to inform this research and answer the research questions. Data collection will be
done using interview guides. Interview guides are appropriate in collecting qualitative data
that aims at exploring and describing a situation the way it is according to Wilson (2018). Using in a semi-structured interview, the research questions will be covered in depth and opinions of the respondents will be captured during the process of data collection.
Limitations, Challenges, Barriers
Some of the limitations, challenges, and barriers that may need to be addressed during
this study could include access to research participants. This student does know some people
who work professionally in the veterinary field and some law enforcement officers as well.
Any limitations, challenges, and/or barriers will be assessed, addressed ethically, and approached with best practices in research.
CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW
This study put into perspective the reasons as to why people abuse animals by carrying a detailed literature review. This chapter explored the existing knowledge of animal
brutality. This brutality is presented through administering bodily pain, grieving, or at some
extreme point, the death of an animal and the influencing factors on human behavior that is
behind this phenomenon. The section comprises of a theoretical framework explicitly reviewing deterrence theory and routine activity theory as an explanation of such action. These theories are relevant and crucial in elucidating the behavioural aspect explored by this study regarding people and animal abuse. Further, this study reviewed animal abuse motivations to
elaborate on the statement of the problem. Additionally, empirical evidence from other studies for a better understanding of the issues presented in the study. A literature gap was established, therefore making a case justifying a more in-depth exploration of the topic. This chapter closes with a summary those points out the most significant sections.
Most people who abuse animals don't do it on purpose. They hurt animals because they
don't think about or realize what they are doing. Many of these people don't know that what
they are doing is cruel. For example, some people don't realize what kinds of shelter different
animals need. They may keep a dog in their yard with a doghouse that is on the ground and
gets flooded with water when it rains, or they keep their dog on a short chain all of the time.
Some people will try to keep their pet under control by using cruel types of discipline. They
may think that punishment and intimidation are the best ways to solve problems. Other people
are cruel because they don't pay attention. For example, someone might forget to give their cat
water for a few days or leave their dog in a car on a hot day with the windows rolled up. Often
these people know better, but they either forget or don't care enough to pay attention. Finally,
some people hurt animals even though they think they're helping them. For example, some
people have so many pets that they can't care for them all. These people are called hoarders,
and they take in so many animals because they love them. Unfortunately, they can't care for all
the animals they take in, and the animals end up living in a place that's cramped , dirty and
unhealthy. Nearly all of these people can learn to understand that they are being cruel through
education and increasing their awareness of the needs of our animal neighbors. Since most of
the people who abuse animals make up this group, this means that most of the people who
abuse animals can be helped with basic education.
The next biggest group of animal abusers does it on purpose, but don't keep doing it for
a long period of time. For example, a group of kids may decide to throw rocks at a nest of baby
birds they happened to see, or they may hurt a stray cat in their neighborhood. These people
are usually young, and they hurt animals because they aren't thinking, or because they can't
stand up to their friends and peer pressure. The ones who are aren't really thinking might be
mad at someone else (like their parents) and kick their pet dog because they can't kick their
parents. Or they may think it's fun to watch an animal run away scared, without really thinking
about how the animal feels. The ones who are giving in to peer pressure might be trying to
show off to their friends. Or they may be with a group of friends who are all trying to impress
each other, and so they go along with what everyone else is doing. Intentionally hurting animals
for any reason is serious. In most states, those caught doing this will face harsher punishment
than those who hurt animals unintentionally. However, these people usually don't hurt animals
more than a few times. They learn to think about how others feel, and they learn to stand up
for themselves. This group can be helped through education and support, too.
The last group of people who hurt animals are the worst. These are people who intentionally hurt animals because they enjoy hurting things, or because it makes them feel powerful.
Many of these people would hurt other people if they could get away with it. They just choose
to hurt animals because animals are more helpless than people. Why do these people hurt animals? There are different reasons. A lot of these people want to have control over others. They
will hurt an animal because they think this means they control the animal. Or they may hurt the
animal to control another person. For example, a husband might hurt the
family's pet to show his wife what he could do to her if she doesn't obey his commands. Someone else might make his dog kill other dogs because he thinks that makes him powerful. Others
simply enjoy pain and violence. Those who enjoy violence might also destroy inanimate objects as well as animals and people. All of the people in this last group suffer from serious,
psychological problems that will probably not go away on their own. They often need the help
of licensed professionals—like a psychologist. We are not 100% sure why people become like
this—most are probably born with their problems, but others can get their problems from brain
damage, poisonous environments, or by being treated badly themselves. Without help, the psychological problems these people have can haunt them for their whole lives. If you know anyone who you think may be like this, don't approach them yourself. Talk to a trusted adult, and
let the adult find someone to help these people. What You Can Do to Help Stop Animal Cruelty
Have you ever seen someone hurting an animal and felt like you couldn't do anything to stop
it? Well, read on—there are important ways that you can speak up.
Alleged link to human violence and psychological disorders. There are studies providing evidence of a link between animal cruelty and violence towards humans. A 2009 study
found that slaughterhouse employment increases total arrest rates, arrests for violent crimes,
arrests for rape, and arrests for other sex offenses in comparison with other industries.
A history of torturing pets and small animals, a behavior known as zoosadism, is considered one of the signs of certain psychopathologies, including antisocial personality disorder,
also known as psychopathic personality disorder. According to The New York Times, "[t]he FBI
has found that a history of cruelty to animals is one of the traits that regularly appears in its
computer records of serial rapists and murderers, and the standard diagnostic and treatment
manual for psychiatric and emotional disorders lists cruelty to animals a diagnostic criterion
for conduct disorders. A survey of psychiatric patients who had repeatedly tortured dogs and
cats found all of them had high levels of aggression toward people as well, including one patient
who had murdered a young boy. Robert K. Ressler, an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation's behavioral sciences unit, studied serial killers and noted, "Murderers like this very
often start out by killing and torturing animals as kids.
Acts of intentional animal cruelty or non-accidental injury may be indicators of serious
psychological problems. According to the American Humane Association, 13% of intentional
animal abuse cases involve domestic violence. As many as 71% of pet-owning women seeking
shelter at safe houses have reported that their partner had threatened and/or hurt or killed one
or more of their pets; 32% of these women reported that one or more of their children had also
hurt or killed pets. Battered women report that they are prevented from leaving their abusers
because they fear what will happen to the animals in their absence. Animal abuse is sometimes
used as a form of intimidation in domestic disputes.
Cruelty to animals is one of the three components of the Macdonald triad, behavior
considered to be one of the signs of violent antisocial behavior in children and adolescents.
According to the studies used to form this model, cruelty to animals is a common (but not
universal) behavior in children and adolescents who grow up to become serial killers and other
violent criminals. It has als ...
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