Juvenile Case Highlights the Link Between Violence to Animals and Violence to Humans

Posted on June 19, 2009

KittenBronx, NY — The recent case of Cheyenne Cherry, a 17 year old girl who reportedly confessed unapologetically for having tortured and killed a kitten by putting her in a hot oven, has garnered well-deserved outrage from across the nation. Criminal abusers, be they adults or juveniles, often threaten and carry out acts of animal cruelty, taking advantage of their human victim’s bond with an animal as a means of intimidation and control. The link between violence to animals and violence to humans is well documented. A Massachusetts study, to name one, concluded that those who intentionally abuse animals are five times more likely to commit crimes of violence against humans, four times more likely to commit property crimes, and three times more likely to have or develop drug or disorderly conduct records.  

Juveniles who are subjected to neglect and domestic violence are often themselves abusive to the animals in the home – motivations may include replication of observed behavior by an adult abuser, a desire to verify the existence of a family member weaker than themselves, a commitment to the “bad child” behavior which they perceive to be expected of them, or a misguided effort to prove themselves to be unsusceptible to emotional distress over the suffering of others.

Victims in abusive domestic relationships often cite concern over their animals’ safety as a reason for not leaving their abuser – programs which coordinate animal shelter resources with the needs of individuals attempting to escape domestic violence are becoming increasingly available but are still in the early stages of being established as familiar options. Gains are being made by promoting, and in some jurisdictions legally requiring, the cross-reporting of different forms of violent abuse among agents such as child and adult protective service providers, animal control officers, law enforcement authorities, teachers and veterinarians.

Cheyenne Cherry was charged not only with felony animal cruelty, but with several other counts including felony burglary, felony criminal mischief and criminal trespass.

You may follow Bronx Supreme Court case #36193C-2009 via New York State Unified Court online.

How You Can Help
Many of the authorities who set the tone and carry out the work of animal and domestic abuse intervention are elected officials. There is benefit to approaching your elected officials proactively, regardless of what animal cruelty case(s) may or may not be currently making the news. Contact them in person or by letter, politely letting them know that, as a voting citizen, you expect and appreciate that animal abuse issues receive their earnest attention. Let them know that ALDF provides free legal assistance to legislators, prosecutors and law enforcement authorities who are addressing animal cruelty. Try to keep letters to one page, and if you make an appointment to meet with them, please be respectful of their very real time limitations. Please also consider writing a Letter to the Editor of your local paper, reminding your community of the link between violence to animals and violence to people.

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