Information for Police and Prosecutors

How can animal protection laws be used to help people?

Abusers often threaten to harm or kill animals in domestic violence situations as a means of intimidation and control. Knowing this, using animal protection laws such as the Criminal Code of Canada (e.g., Section 264.1 – uttering threats) will help both the animals and their owners.

In addition, children may be more likely to disclose abuse of an animal than abuse of a parent, sibling or themselves. Be attuned to such disclosures and act accordingly.

How does animal cruelty fit the profile of violent criminals?

In the United States, the FBI identifies animal cruelty as one of a cluster of juvenile behaviours associated with increasingly violent behaviour and uses animal cruelty in analyzing the threat potential of suspected and known criminals. The FBI has recognized the connection since the 1970s, when bureau analysis of the life histories of imprisoned serial killers suggested that most had killed or tortured animals before killing people. Other research has shown consistent patterns of more common forms of violence, including child abuse, spousal abuse, and elder abuse.

Who can help with animal cruelty cases?

Alberta SPCA’s Animal Protection Services Department works with police and RCMP detachments across the province. If you would like some animal-related assistance, please call 1-800-455-9003. If you want advice on cases involving animal cruelty and interpersonal violence, our Education Department has extensive resources – call 780-447-3600 ext. 3739 or send an email.

Is animal cruelty recognized as a sign of mental disorder?

Yes. In The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), the American Psychiatric Association lists animal cruelty as one of the behaviours signalling conduct disorder. Clinical evidence indicates that animal cruelty is one of the symptoms usually seen at the earliest stages of conduct disorder, often by the age of eight.