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Research from the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and the American University’s School of Public Affairs has revealed that 20 % of intentional animal cruelty incidents reported to police in the US involve another criminal offence. The study, which covers data from 2017-18, is titled “Intentional Cruelty Versus Neglect: New Insights on Animal Cruelty Crimes and Implications for Policy,” and it was published in Criminal Justice Police Review. 

Intentional cruelty includes violent acts such as beating or killing an animal, animal fighting, and animal sexual assault, while neglect is failing to care for an animal. The study shows that people under 19 years of age were almost seven times more likely to be involved in intentional animal cruelty than in neglect, and males were slightly more likely to be involved in neglect cases and four times more likely to be involved in intentional animal cruelty. 

Dr Lynn Addington, a criminology professor at American University’s School of Public Affairs, said,  “Animal cruelty has received growing scholarly attention over the past few decades…Previous research tended to group both forms of cruelty together, which limited the ability to develop targeted prevention and intervention policies. We hope that our research will help prevent crime and inform policy.”

Dr Mary Lou Randour, senior advisor for AWI’s animals and family violence program, said, “Cruelty incidents that come to the attention of police are particularly important to study, as they present opportunities for intervention and treatment…Research that distinguishes between intentional cruelty and neglect is especially significant because we know that early, recurring physical aggression against animals and anti-social behaviour are linked to violent behaviour against animals and people that continues into adulthood…Our findings illustrate how important it is for law enforcement agencies to take animal cruelty crimes seriously — both as an animal welfare and public safety issue—and to systematically collect and report incidents to federal authorities.”