Originally Published in: Uvalde Leader-News
Published on: July 20, 2022
As we continue mourning the victims in Uvalde, a national and state conversation is underway about how to prevent such tragedies. There is a behavior that violent criminals frequently exhibit before they commit extreme acts against people: animal cruelty. If we report acts of animal cruelty and enforce animal cruelty laws, we could potentially identify those likely to commit even more violent and extreme crimes.
The Uvalde shooter committed several acts of animal cruelty before he savagely gunned down 21 innocent lives. Months before the mass shooting, he publicly posted live videos of his torture of kittens and cats across social media platforms and boasted that he and his friends tortured animals “all the time.” Nobody reported it. In fact, people rarely report acts of animal cruelty, and they only become known after mass shootings or other violent crimes. In many cases, people aren’t aware of animal cruelty laws or where or how to report these heinous acts.
In 2017, the Texas Humane Legislation Network led a successful effort to strengthen our state’s animal cruelty law, considered one of the most effective animal cruelty laws in the United States. But a law can’t be effective if animal cruelty witnessed online isn’t reported in real life. To date, Texans and law enforcement don’t always associate acts of cruelty against animals with acts of cruelty against people – yet both data and experience support the link between the two. We need to change that.
The warning signs these troubled individuals send to schoolmates, family members, and others in their social networks continue to go unreported. These gunmen have no problem incriminating themselves by broadcasting their felonious acts of cruelty against animals on social media.
What can we do right now? We can educate. When law enforcement officials graduate from their respective academies in Texas, they have zero animal cruelty training. Let’s educate law enforcement, animal control officers, elected officials, and citizens on the link between animal cruelty and interpersonal violence.
Shelby L. Bobosky
Executive Director of the Texas Humane Legislation Network