Animal cruelty could be warning behavior for future terrorist acts, new report says

By on July 25, 2018 with 5 Comments

The link between crimes involving cruelty to animals and human violence has been well documented and long recognized by the nation’s top law enforcement groups, including the FBI and the National Sheriffs’ Association. Now, a new report warns that animal abuse crimes could signal warning behavior for acts of terrorism.

The Joint Counterterrorism Assessment Team, a collaboration between the National Counterterrorism Center, the Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI, issued the report this week, titled Animal Cruelty: A Possible Warning Behavior for Terrorism and Other Premeditated Violence against Humans Which Needs Reporting and Further Vetting. The report emphasizes that reporting, investigating and prosecuting acts of animal cruelty can help prevent acts of human violence, including terrorism. The report is a new addition to the Team’s First Responder’s Toolbox series.

The document says that in 2017, there were two instances in which ISIS supporters in the United States abused animals prior to their arrest and were later found to have been plotting terrorist attacks. In one instance local law enforcement was notified by a family member about a relative who possessed a weapon and intended to kill the family dog. When local law enforcement officers responded, they discovered a large knife wound on the dog and took the person into custody. Upon further investigation, they found he planned to construct and use a pressure cooker bomb in New York City on behalf of the terrorist group ISIS, according to court documents.

Many studies in psychology, sociology and criminology in the past 25 years have demonstrated that violent offenders frequently have childhood and adolescent histories of serious and repeated animal cruelty, leading to the unequivocal conclusion that violence to animals is a predictor that the individual poses a threat to become violent toward people. We have also seen several instances of this play out in real life, including the recent high-profile case in Florida, where a shooter who killed several people at a high school had a history of animal abuse.

State legislatures have recognized the connection between animal cruelty and human violence. In 1986, only four states had felony provisions for animal cruelty. Since then, with the HSUS’s help, 44 states strengthened their animal cruelty laws, leaving just two states – Iowa and Mississippi – that fail to provide felony penalties for even the mutilation and torture of animals on first offense. We will continue our work until every state recognizes that animals deserve to be protected from violent abuse.

We are grateful for the support of the National Sheriffs’ Association, which has long recognized this link and has been a leader in helping to spread this important message in law enforcement. In 2014, the FBI made the decision to include animal cruelty in its Uniform Crime Report, which provides critical data on incidents of animal cruelty and gives local law enforcement incentive to pursue these crimes.

Law enforcement groups and their allies are leading the charge in the fight against animal cruelty and human violence and the HSUS is privileged to partner with these stakeholders on a wide array of investigations, trainings and legislation across the country, with the shared goal of ending animal cruelty and promoting community safety. This latest report illustrates how important it is to treat animal cruelty as the serious crime it is, and we are grateful to the Joint Counterterrorism Assessment team for making this important link.

Companion Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. Gine Oquendo says:

    It is right that we have to pay attention to this issue, we should investigate and make sure that no one animals be maltreated. I’m a part-timer in an
    exotic animal hospital
    and let’s protect our animals.

  2. Robin Cornell says:

    We should care about animal cruelty for the animals, and to save them from suffering, not just because it’s a predictor of future violence directed towards humans. Unfortunately, in a world in which many humans think only their lives matter, this attitude is a political necessity to formulating strong laws against animal abuse, providing for meaningful punishment.

  3. Frances Leard says:

    The problem is the inept laws that seem to turn their backs on animal cruelty. We need strict laws to stop these sick low life cowardly monsters. Only then will this cruelty end.
    Everyone must take responsibility to report violence to animals immediately.

    • Marian Prato says:

      It’s not just the inept laws plenty of states have good laws on the books however Sheriff departments do not enforce due to the Good Ol Boys systems that they have set in place. One example is the case of Dr Drip the former Championship race horse who won quite a bit of cash for the owners and once his career was over he was passed off to many different hands and ended up tortured and I mean severely tortured to the point of death. The torturer got off scott-free after a quick trial. That is just one case and I can’t even say how many others.

  4. Betsy Roberts says:

    For decades (yes, that’s right: decades) the FBI has known that animal abuse often precedes other violent behavior but most members of law enforcement have not taken these crimes seriously – until recently, when some teenage boys filmed themselves beating a mother opossum in the head with a baseball bat, killing her; then pouring a mix of bleach and ammonia on her 4 babies. Every boy was arrested and charged with aggravated animal cruelty. This happened in Georgia, so it gives me hope for the rest of the Deep South. Unfortunately, in Mississippi (where I live) making animal cruelty a felony has repeatedly been blocked by Farm Bureau of Miss., with help from the powerful farm lobby, even though the bill specifically listed only cats and dogs. Due to the farm lobby and the money it pours into the pockets of Miss. legislators this bill never made it out of committee and thus could not be voted on by the Legislature. Please help us rectify this problem! People who have dragged their dogs behind a pickup truck to “punish” them get a slap on the wrist and no jail time. We need to change this culture ASAP!

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