A familiar pattern is emerging in the profile of the Colorado gunman, Robert Lewis Dear, who allegedly killed three people and wounded nine others at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs last week – the latest in our national epidemic of mass shootings at schools, malls, and other public venues. It has been reported that Dear had a history of run-ins with the law, including accusations of animal abuse.
These aspects of his personal profile come as no surprise to those of us who are familiar with the established link between violence against humans and cruelty to animals. A study in 1997 found that between 71 and 83 percent of women entering domestic violence shelters reported that their partners had threatened, injured, or killed the family pet. In fact, the investigation and prosecution of crimes against animals is often an important tool for identifying people who may become perpetrators of violent crimes against people. This is why the FBI recently changed its record keeping to include animal cruelty crimes within its Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program. When we work with law enforcement on animal fighting crimes, we see plenty of evidence of criminality and interpersonal violence committed by these thugs.
For The HSUS, it’s not enough to identify the link; we need to harness the law to flag and isolate the people likely to be involved in interspecies violence, and to prevent them from doing further harm. That’s why The HSUS is supporting a bill in Congress, the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, introduced by U.S. Representatives Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.). The PAWS Act would amend the Violence Against Women Act to protect the pets of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence. The change will also establish a grant program so that domestic violence shelters can make accommodations for victims’ pets, so a victim is not manipulated into returning home for fear of harm to a beloved family pet.
We’re also backing bipartisan legislation, known as the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act (PACT), introduced by Representatives Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) and Ted Deutsch (D-Fla.) and Senators Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), to allow federal prosecutions of the worst cases of cruelty with a federal nexus. This bill will be the first federal anti-cruelty law, and we know it will lead to law enforcement putting the worst perpetrators of cruelty in prison and not letting them get to their next victims.
It doesn’t take much to intuit or comprehend the link between animal cruelty and human violence. But it does take some know-how when it comes to dealing with wrongdoers and prescribing solutions to the threat that they pose to society. We’re on the task, and we hope you’ll contact your lawmakers to get the PAWS Act and the PACT Act over the finish line, as two swings against these morally deadened human beings. The law must speak when the Robert Dears of the world show off their first flashes of violence, so we then don’t have to read or see the consequences of an escalation in their terrorizing and harming of others in the newspaper or on the evening news.