Letter: Cruelty to animals may be sign of future violence

Originally Published in: Times Record News
Published on: 
July 22, 2022
Written By: Jan Herzog, Local Chapter President, Texas Humane Legislation Network

Today an old friend and classmate was telling me and some other friends about her serial killer cousin who was executed in 1999. He’s featured in several true-crime series. Check out Southern Gothic: They Call Me Animal.  (**Trigger warning: torture of animals.) They grew up together. She was recalling how he would bury cats in the ground up to their heads and then run over their heads with a lawn mower, and hang cats from mesquite trees and throw knives at them, then leave them hanging till they died. I haven’t watched it all yet, but she remarked that the Southern Gothic episode left out his childhood, so it may not include these grisly precursors to his murder of humans. However my friend remembers them clearly. He was also a bully to his cousins, not surprisingly. I guess nobody reported these disturbing acts all those years ago.

The young men who recently committed mass shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo, NY, both had a propensity for cruelty to animals, specifically cats, according to a June 29 article in Time. As these individuals often do, they had posted disturbing content online bragging about their deeds well before their shooting rampages, but again, I guess nobody reported it or took it seriously, even in this day and age. Maybe they just didn’t know where to report it, or maybe didn’t realize animal cruelty is a crime. Texans, including law enforcement, don’t always associate acts of cruelty against animals with acts of cruelty against people, even though the link between cruelty to animals in childhood and later acts of violence toward humans has been known, studied, and documented for many years.

Texas Humane Legislation Network led an effort which resulted in strengthening our state’s animal cruelty law in 2017, making it one of the nation’s most effective animal cruelty laws. The law can only be effective, however, if animal cruelty witnessed online or anywhere is reported to appropriate officials AND if those officials are knowledgeable about the law and are willing to take action.

Abuse of any animal is a serious crime in itself, and should be taken seriously and dealt with appropriately -- even if it never led to violence toward humans. But the fact that we know it DOES should be common knowledge for law enforcement officials. Unfortunately, there is now zero law enforcement training in dealing with cases of animal cruelty. We need to educate all law enforcement, animal control, and elected officials, as well as citizens, about the link between violence directed toward animals and toward humans.  Taking these cases seriously can save lives—both animal and in some cases, human as well.

Jan Herzog, Local Chapter President, Texas Humane Legislation Network, Wichita Falls