Florida high school shooter bragged about killing animals

By on February 15, 2018 with 39 Comments

Once again, our country is in collective mourning over a senseless, gruesome massacre at a school, this time in Parkland, Florida. As the mother of a high schooler myself, I am heartbroken and worried for every child, for every family, and for every community that has to endure such suffering and pain. Beyond the shared grief and heartache for the victims and their families, a common refrain we are once again hearing is, “what could we have done?”

It’s a challenging question to answer — gun violence is a complex, multifaceted issue. When media reports indicated that the shooter had a history of bragging about killing animals on social media, those of us in the animal protection movement were sadly unsurprised. This pattern of violence is common and well-documented — time and again we hear that individuals responsible for mass shootings have also targeted animals as their victims.

Many have long appreciated the important relationship between animal abuse and interpersonal violence, but some individuals have not yet made the connection. The HSUS’s Law Enforcement Training Center shares this important message with law enforcement officers on the front lines. Each year, The HSUS provides training to thousands of officers across the country on investigating and prosecuting animal abuse, with a focus on the link between these cases and acts of violence against human beings. Our courses include discussions around why a child might abuse animals, and how animal crimes are related to other felonies (including mass shootings, distribution of illegal drugs, gang warfare, as well as domestic violence, elder abuse, and child abuse). Next month, in a sad irony, The HSUS will collaborate with the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association to discuss these very issues.

Each year, The HSUS provides training to thousands of law enforcement officers across the country on investigating and prosecuting animal abuse, with a focus on the link between these cases and acts of violence against human beings. Photo by The HSUS

Prevention through education and awareness is another common theme, as we encourage multidiscipline cross-training, and cross-reporting among enforcement officers, veterinarians, and human service professionals. We encourage early intervention methods, asking domestic violence shelters to team up with humane societies to create safe havens where people fleeing violent situations can keep their pets safe, too. We urge human services agencies to screen for animal abuse during client assessments. In addition, we have been clear in recommending that children who abuse animals should receive help to address the reasons for their violent actions.

At the same time, we, like other humane organizations, have long championed humane education and the cultivation of pro-social sentiments and skills in children, an obvious solution to the social and cultural crisis that violence has created in American life.

In the public policy area, elected officials should continue their efforts geared toward reducing mass murders and gun violence. But they should also consider the role of strengthened anti-cruelty laws. Across the country, The HSUS works alongside state legislators to pass meaningful protections for animals and to hold the perpetrators of cruelty and abuse accountable. At the federal level, there are two bills designed to protect both pets and their people:

  • The Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, S.322/H.R.909, will help protect domestic violence victims and their pets by expanding domestic violence protections to include pets, and by establishing a federal grant program to assist in securing safe shelter for the pets. The PAWS Act establishes a national policy on this issue and encourages states to expand their legal protections for pets in abusive households.
  • The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, H.R. 1494/S. 654, will make it a federal crime to commit malicious cruelty to an animal on federal property or otherwise in interstate commerce. It also targets bestiality, which is associated with child pornography and other sexual crimes. In a study of more than 44,000 adult males evaluated for sexual misconduct, researchers concluded that bestiality is the number one risk factor and the strongest predictor of increased risk of sexual abuse of a child. The PACT Act will create a federal anti-cruelty statute that complements the cruelty laws in the 50 states.

Simply put, animal cruelty is an indicator of social pathology. Congress should act now to pass these bills without further delay, so we can help protect both animals and humans from needless violence.

Companion Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. Carol Ames says:

    What about legally-protected, socially accepted animal exploitation in the name of economics and commerce? Isn’t that an indicator of a pathological society?

    • John says:

      Yes. Yes it is.

    • Melinda Belair says:

      Couldn’t agree with you more!

    • Jeannie C says:

      No. Working with an animal is not the same as burning it with cigarettes. Common sense, people!

    • Doris Muller says:

      Right-on Carol. This is a huge societal problem. Here is a perfect example:

      This animal cruelty public event, Ridgeland Pioneer Day, is being protected by local Wisconsin authority. A vigil is being hosted by Madison Animal Save:


    • ruth martinez says:

      Yes, Carol I agree with you. People cherry pick what is animal abuse. It is all abuse in my opinion, and people make stupid excuses as to why they exploit animals the way they do. There is blatant abuse and abuse with an explanation (to save lives – laboratory animals) which today is obsolete and ineffective, to earn income (circuses and carriage horses, puppy mills) horrible slaughterhouses – which makes us look like a third world country, allowing kaporos chickens to be slaughtered in the streets of Brooklyn NY in the name of religion. There is the money motivator in these cases and then there is the pathological torture and murder of innocent animals for the pleasure of it. Any individual involved in this should be investigated and taken out of the general population. What kind of red flag to folks need to see before this person starts murdering people?

    • Dazeera Mourad says:


  2. Ana Melissa Martinez says:

    La raza humana todo lo que toca lo destruye con sus propios manos me refiero a los animales

  3. George Nagle says:

    The big elephant in the room that no one wants to discuss is that the state wildlife agencies (game commissions) encourage families to teach their children to kill, desensitize them to killing, and teach them to smile and pose with their innocent victims. The local newspapers reward children killing by publishing their pictures in the paper with their trophy kills. These children are taught that killing is fun, and something to celebrate and enjoy. This is state sponsored child abuse and animal cruelty. It’s no wonder that a large percentage of the school massacres are committed by young hunters.

    • LA says:

      Couldn’t agree more. The desensitization to cruelty towards animals starts young and it starts in the home.

    • Barbara Metzler says:

      Killing animals is definitely horrible and it always upsets me when State Wildlife Agencies push families to teach their children to kill. Apparently, the number of adult hunters is going down, so State Wildlife Agencies are frantic to draw children into killing defenseless animals. Revenues from the Pittman-Robertson ACT OF 1937 are distributed to the states for restoration of hunted animals
      and hunter recruitment. The more hunters a state has, the more dollars the
      state gets from Pittman-Robertson. So….states are trying for more horrible killers. When my grandson was 2 years old, he was so upset one day because he thought he stepped on an ant on the driveway. He obviously never wanted to be a hunter to kill anything.

    • Anne Barton says:

      Thank you Mr. Nagle! This is so true! Wildlife groups promote and encourage the killing of animals. The more the interest in hunting fades the more emphasis on bringing in young children. Many young children naturally identify with animals and have natural compassion. If we work at overriding this should we be surprised that we have created killers?

    • Karin McKenna says:

      State wildlife agencies teach their agents that children need to be indioctrinated to killing wilflife before age 10 – by a role model. Teachers, boyfriends, uncles, parents can convince young minds that killing is a natural progression towards adulthood. Agencies have even resorted to developing programs that match up “big brothers” that hunt to volunteer time with children of single parent homes. Emotional intelligence is key to successful life adaptation. Bonding with companion animals develops EQ in young children. HSUS can do much to develop the EQ factor in children. The materials HSUS provides schools is psychologically healthy. I hope that HSUS continues to work with schools and does not overlook the plight of wildlife in shrinking habitat. An emotionally stable child is a gift to all of us.

    • Zandra says:

      I suppose you never ate meat that was “killed” or is it only ok to eat meat that is killed at a slaughter house. How is teaching children to treat each gun as if it was loaded, always be aware of where it is pointed (never point a barrel at someone) and to keep thier fingers off of the trigger unles they are taking a shot. They are taught to only make ethical shots and abide by all the laws. Poeple make thier own choices just like you chose to point the blame at a program educating in hunters in saftey. It takes a sick evil individual to take someone’s life how dare you point fingers at children who are being taught to respect guns and provide food for thier families. You better believe they are proud of thier kills, they aren’t out shooting animals just massacre them because they are malicious. They dont wish for the animal to suffer. They put in hard work, provide food, and have nothing but respect for the hunt.

      • Dazeera Mourad says:


      • George Nagle says:

        Zandra, my comment had nothing to do with teaching gun safety, but in teaching children to kill, and the psychological damage that it does to them, and the fact that a large percentage of school shooters are young hunters, i.e. children who were taught to kill and desensitized to killing. Those are facts that should prompt an investigation into the cause and effect of teaching children to hunt and kill, and school shootings.

        What’s the difference between Nikolas Cruz’s act of animal cruelty of injuring and killing squirrels and child hunters entering a squirrel killing contest? One is given the impression that Cruz’s acts of cruelty are a red flag, but that child hunters doing the same act of cruelty is just a father teaching his child “family values”. There’s a real cultural disconnect. If you shot and killed your neighbor’s dog there are anti-cruelty laws that you can be charged with, but if you shoot a deer and the deer suffers for days before dying, there are no animal cruelty laws protecting the deer. The dog and deer are equally sentient beings, and the act of animal cruelty and suffering of the dog and the deer are the same.

        Bow Hunting is extremely inhumane. Twenty-two published scientific surveys and studies indicate that the average wounding rate for bow hunting is over 50 percent. More than one out of every two deer shot is never retrieved, but dies a slow tortuous death from blood loss and infection.

        Hunting regulations in many states allow children to be taught to kill before they even understand what death means. Some states don’t have any age restrictions if accompanied by an adult, and so toddlers can be taught to kill. In addition, these children are being allowed to shoot high powered rifles that have a maximum range of 2 to 3 miles, and so if there’s a misfire, missed shot, or ricochet, anyone within a 3 mile radius could be in lethal danger. This is crazy! These children aren’t even old enough to apply for a drivers license permit.

        I’m an ex-hunter, and it’s a bunch of baloney that hunters go deer hunting to put food on the table. Deer hunting is all about trophy hunting and killing the big buck, so that you can cut his head off and hang it on your wall for bragging rights, just like bear and lion trophy hunting. Some hunters do eat the venison and others donate the uninspected and unsafe lead contaminated meat to food shelters.

        BTW, there is no “ethical” hunting or hunters by the “sports” own definition. There is no “fair chase” involved. What fair chance does an unsuspecting deer have when a .30-06 can blow a deer’s heart out from 300 yards. Or when a hunter shoots down at an unsuspecting deer from a tree stand that’s he’s been baiting and taking trail cam pics of all year. The deer don’t have a fair chance of escape. There’s no “fair chase” involved. How can hunters consider themselves “ethical” or men of honor, when they “hunt” in residential parks and back yards, where the deer are so tame they walk right up to them to be killed at point blank range. Ethical hunting is an oxymoron. If it was a fair fight and the deer could shoot back there wouldn’t be one hunter in the woods.

        When you say that “they … have nothing but respect for the hunt”, I think you meant to say, that they have nothing but respect for the defenseless animal that they just killed and posed with. I agree with Paul Watson, who says, “You can’t love or respect nature [or a defenseless animal] with a gun”.

        That said, the main point of my initial comment was that I believe that teaching children to kill is wrong, dangerous, and child abuse, and that there is a direct correlation to teaching children to kill and the high percentage of school shooters who are young hunters, and that I believe this statistic is being ignored by everyone, and that this fact should raise a red flag and prompt an investigation.

        • Zandra says:

          The thing is you are trying to separate the two. I would never hand a child a gun with out first having taught them proper safety. Only an ignorat fool would. Hunting and torturing animals are two completely different things, by your statements every person how has killed an animal is a heartless killer ….. killing an animal for food and murdering a person how can you even compare the two. Most murders by guns are in ‘gun free cities’ how meant of those people do you think every went hunting? Or took a hunter safety class?

      • Ashley Pankratz says:

        All of us grew up eating meat, Zandra. The difference is that many choose to no longer support the unnecessary killing of animals once they realize the violence involved, and the alternatives available. Having lived in rural America for most of my life, I can tell you that modern hunting is sport hunting–eating the animal you kill isn’t the same as hunting to survive. Perhaps it’s easy to believe that “hunters don’t wish animals to suffer” if you’ve never heard a hunter brag about killing a coyote, or tracking a gut-wounded deer. Perhaps easy to believe if you’ve never *seen* a coyote hanging from a tree, or a gut-wounded deer. I have had two wounded deer come to die on my property. I’ve watched hunters stand laughing, smoking, and high-fiving over the destroyed body of a doe who came to my property with her fawns. I’ve found and reported deer with severed heads on the state lands by my house–animals killed only for their antlers, and left to rot. Modern hunting culture and the justifications used to defend it are a poison to both environmental and moral integrity. I hope that going forward, HSUS will take a clear stance by opposing recreational killing, which is no different than a sick kid abusing a dog or cat.

    • Ruth ferguson says:

      These are ducks, geese, pheasant, turkey, to be eaten as a family. This has been the norm since the earth began…. minus the photos. Go chop some wood or kill some flies….or do you kill flies?

    • Anne Barton says:

      It is so true that wildlife authorities promote and encourage the killing of animals by children. The more the interest in hunting fades the more emphasis on bringing in young children. Many young children naturally identify with animals and have natural compassion. If we work at overriding this should we be surprised that we have teenaged killers?

    • Doris Muller says:

      I absolutely agree with you ,George. I have stated the same facts over and over again in posted comments. Fishing is a perfect example of society honoring those who find it fun and entertaining to torture these beings with deadly weapons. The fish are lured with the innocent victims thinking they are getting food. After they fall for the trick, they are yanked out of the water with the cruel weaponry embedded in their tender mouths. Children are then encouraged to feel proud that they caught a victim with deceit, all while the victim is suffering as it struggles for air. Many water-hunters justify their vicious cruelty by claiming they release their victims.

      There is even a group of compassionate want-a-be’s who invite women who have, or had, cancer to a lodge where the leisure-time therapy is catch and release torture of fish. And what about Veterans who are treated to joy-killing outings to help them deal with their PTSD–this is a group who should know what it’s like to be hunted. There are even those who are honored, after death, for their love of killing-for-joy.

      Combining a society that is determined to protect its member’s desire to freely kill non-human beings and the current culture of wide spread drug personalities, we end up with generations who lose the ability to have proper empathy and compassion.

    • Dee M. says:

      The antihunting commentator above must be a citydweller who has never actually met rural people who raise crops and livestock, but also hunt wild game. There’s a lot less bloodthirsty “sport” than you think, City. Deer population needs to be kept in check. Pheasant and wild turkey, and deer, and fish, are eaten. Coyotes are an invasive species and killers of livestock and domestic person, so, yeah, we do strive to eradicate coyotes in my area. Bears in your yard and breaking into your home? Well you’d not want that, either.

      • Dee M. says:

        Domestic pets, is what I wrote but autocorrect changed it.

      • Ashley Pankratz says:

        In many years of living in deeply rural America, I’ve learned that those who kill animals for sport–i.e., self-proclaimed “sportsmen”–rely on two arguments: junk science and/or scare tactics, and the defense of tradition. The latter of these is easily dismantled: because humans have historically done something doesn’t justify its continuation. By the same rationale bullfighting is perfectly fine, as is child labor, slavery, etc. The first argument is reflected in negligent statements like, “Coyotes are invasive killers of livestock” and “bears break into homes.” Wild animals are the cash crops of management agencies, which profit from hunting and trapping, and whose “conservation” policies are designed to keep game populations high–hence, coyote killing contests, the killing of wolf and bear pups and cubs in their dens, the emphasis on killing rather than education. Coyotes are actually not invasive (please read Coyote America by Dan Flores, to start), and there is a greater statistical chance of being shot by a hunter than having a bear break into your home. Anyone who believes there’s a difference between a child posing for a photo opp with a slain deer (justified as tradition), and a child posing with a slain dog or cat (perceived as derangement), is deluding themselves. Wake up. We need to take a clear, strong stance that all violence toward animals is morally unacceptable.

  4. Ceil Brink says:

    The best way, in my opinion, to break the cycle of animal abuse and usury is to reach the children through education, videos, books visits to schools, etc., etc, etc. Adults who exploit animals for any reason–legal or otherwise– are unlikely to change. But the children are tomorrow’s leaders. The enmity between human and animal can be eradicated by them. Teach them to take the lead; to honor every animal’s right to life; to love them all.

  5. Tess says:

    “Simply put, animal cruelty is an indicator of social pathology. Congress should act now to pass these bills without further delay, so we can help protect both animals and humans from needless violence.”

    Whoa, whoa, whoa! Not so fast there.

    Check out the contrapositive:
    1) Is it then not true that children and families who are exceptionally compassionate to animals is an indicator of the absence of social pathology
    2) cops shooting well-loved family pets are symptomatic of social pathologies and
    3) create the conditions to radicalize the socially well intergrated?

  6. silvie pomicter says:

    Something needs to be done to teach children compassion for animals, especially in regards to those teaching them to kill animals in the name of sport. I worked with a woman and her husband who are both hunters, and she taught hunting classes in bible studies in church after mass. We need better control of allowing the hunting lobby to infiltrate into our schools, community organizations, churches, libraries, etc. I know of a hunting/sportsmen’s club who organizes events in low income areas, to recruit young poor children/teens into hunting/fishing. These children would not be hunting, if not for the financial help and encouragement. They give them gifts of hunting jackets, and other hunting paraphernalia. I believe we need to target and prevent this as much as possible, and teach more classes about compassion to animals. Heck, my local library had someone from the Pa. Game Commission showing 3,4,5 year old children animal pelts, and they could feel the fur. A picture of these children petting the fur was in all the local newspapers, as well. This desensitizes them to animal cruelty, hunting, trapping, and wearing fur.

  7. Billita Jacobsen says:

    Thanks, Kitty, for all the HSUS does to prevent animal cruelty and for your post–I agree. I also agree with George Nagle about the elephant in the room. Clearly, people who enjoy killing animals are mentally disturbed and hunters must be included in that. The recent shooter was a hunter. The Las Vegas shooter was a trophy hunter–and on and on. These killers must be included in any discussions about animal cruelty. Every state agency promotes killing animals on OUR public lands. In Illinois, they recently added the bobcat and river otter to their list of animals that can be legally killed–it’s out of control!

  8. Deb Lewellen says:

    Regulations are abundant in the world of hunting and fishing, the size, dates, type of hunting/fishing. Regulations on the world of agriculture, when animals can be slaughtered due to vaccines/deworming and other medications.
    YET there is no regulations for Companion animals: the Animal Greeders who Greed and Breed there way to the point of GLUTS AND GLUTS AND GLUTS of companion animals that end up in our gov’t. run kill shelters. Healthy adoptables Killed for Space reasons in many regions in the US. Animal Cruelty gets a slap on the wrist, plea down, charges dropped all the time. Weak Laws, Laws not enforced and Simply a Judicial system that doesn’t give a damn. WHEN WILL YOU GIVE A DAMN?

    • Deb Lewellen says:

      And no mandatory Spay and Neuter laws. Programs non existent to ensure more animals are spayed and neutered and more education.

  9. Rose says:

    It is well documented that animal abuse and human violence are strongly connected. Frank R. Ascione, Ph.D., a Professor of Psychology and Adjunct Professor of Family and Human Development, has suggested that committing childhood animal abuse may interfere with the development of empathy.

    Clifton Flynn’s study found a correlation between hunting, violence against animals, and property damage among college males. Hunters were twice as likely to have been violent toward wild or stray animals (almost half reported having perpetrated animal abuse), and more than twice as likely to have committed property damage. Hunters expressed less cognitive empathy (adopting the psychological point of view of others) than non-hunters.

    Professor of Sociology Arnold Arluke and MSPCA Vice President Carter Luke noted that adolescents often commit animal cruelty as a way to gain approval from one’s peers and to assert their masculinity. Since hunters are more stereotypically masculine (i.e. exhibiting the most violent masculine traits), they likely kill animals, both legally and illegally, in pathetic attempts to prove their masculinity to themselves and others.

    came from hunting families, or otherwise abused animals.

    We don’t need scholarly studies to foresee the results of teaching children to ignore their highest, altruistic impulses, in favor of engaging in base, violent behaviors. So what are we going to do about it?

  10. Susan Langford says:

    George Nagle, This is very disturbing to hear…

  11. Elaine says:

    As in circuses, rodeos, zoos, and aquariums-animals are the victims of money loving entertainment shows, and all are abusive in some way.

  12. Doris Muller says:

    The standard hunter’s mantra of justification goes something like this: I eat what I kill; I help manage nature (which by-the-way didn’t need managing until humans interfered); I contribute to nature by purchasing licenses (Never mind that these licensing programs were put in place to keep conscienceless humans from decimating all of the living nature); I reduce the deer population which leads to less traffic accidents (BS); I carry on tradition (Some traditions are just too cruel, and they should not be handed down); I pray for the animals I kill (dead animals don’t need prayers, but brutal, violent, conscienceless human killers do). If your ancestors didn’t hunt, you wouldn’t be here. (if a person never existed, would that person have ancestors?); I donate the “meat” to support charitable programs (They donate the bodies of victims to gain emotional support for their joy-of-killing).

    A more accurate hunter’s mantra reads like this: I enjoy killing animals; I get a huge thrill out of stalking; killing animals is good target practice; I love to brag about my killing successes; I feel empowered by killing; I love all the hunting accouterments; stalking and killing animals is a fun and exciting way to use my guns; I love the comradery with my like-minded buddies; while I’m stalking and killing, it’s all about me, therefore, I could care less about the life of an animal. I tell others that I pray for the dead animal, that way, others will think I care about the victim: Sure, I will consume the victim, after I experience the thrill of killing it.

    Eating other species started out of need (?), it continues out of financial greet and self-severance. Those who take *joy* in killing are all afflicted with the same conscienceless tendencies. In most cases, the killing urges were indoctrinated by prevailing value systems and their own families. Regardless of the species of the victim, A KILLER BY ANY OTHER NAME IS STILL A KILLER!.

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