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  • Apr
  • 6

Only Sociopaths Intentionally Hurt Animals: A Professional View

Posted by at 6:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (34)


D Sharon Pruitt / CC

Here at PETA, we see horrible animal abuse cases day after day. Our Cruelty Investigations Department is on call 24/7, helping animals and making sure that those who abuse them are held accountable. If you are like us, you have probably spent a good deal of time scratching your head wondering what kind of person would do such horrible things. That’s why we asked Dawn Drucker, PETA supporter and psychotherapist, to share her professional perspective on this.

I am a psychotherapist who has worked with all manner of people, including individuals of all age groups as well as individuals with personality disorders. I have found (and other psychotherapists I’ve talked to and whose findings I’ve read about agree with me) that there is a correlation between individuals who harm or kill animals and sociopathic behavior.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is published by the American Psychiatric Association, and it is used as a tool by mental-health workers to diagnose clients’ psychological problems, based on their symptoms and behavior. Diagnosing clients is necessary for the development of their treatment goals. Unfortunately, there are limited diagnostic tools to confirm the link between cruelty to animals and sociopathic behavior, but sociopathic behavior and the sociopathic personality type are indeed prevalent in our society.

For example, serial killers such as Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Richard Ramirez as well as countless other serial killers, murderers, and rapists all abused animals as children, and that behavior escalated into harming humans.

The sociopathic personality first develops in early childhood or adolescence and is classified under the diagnosis of “conduct disorder,” which then develops into “anti-social personality disorder” (both of these are listed in the DSM). One of the early signs of a conduct disorder is often cruelty to animals.

An individual who is able to engage in cruelty to animals appears to have no conscience and thus no remorse for his or her behavior. The act of cruelty to animals results from an apparent need for power and control, and this need is accompanied by a lack of empathy. Animals are targeted, especially helpless and defenseless ones, because the perpetrator does not recognize or care that they have feelings and can experience not just physical pain but also emotional pain.

Animals can feel pain and suffer, just as humans can, but since sociopaths have a general inability to empathize, they are able to inflict pain and agony on sentient beings with no feelings of remorse—hence the increased probability that cruelty to humans is a next step.

I have often worked with clients whose attitude was “It was just an animal, so who cares?” They describe feeling a “rush” after abusing and killing an animal. This rush can also occur in people who inflict cruelty on other humans, so if a person is capable of abusing, torturing, and killing an animal, he or she may decide to go even further and inflict harm on another human being in order to achieve the same rush.

The link between violence against animals and violence against humans is well established. Check out this special booklet that PETA developed for law enforcement officials and prosecutors.

Dawn Drucker, M.S., L.M.F.T., L.C.D.C., has a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Eastern Michigan University and is an L.M.F.T.-licensed marriage and family therapist and an L.C.D.C.-licensed chemical dependency counselor in Texas.

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  • Hannah Genes says:

    PETA is quoted on this saying, “It’s a macabre way to honor a beloved family member.”

  • Mcn says:

    This may seem a very odd comment/question but I happened across a video (quite by accident as cruelty to animals enrages me) whereby a man turned his dead cat in to a ‘helicopter’. Is there a psychiatric term/disorder for people who abuse the corpses of animals? I don’t know how this man treated his cat prior to its death but my guess is that it was horrible. I would like to know as I wish to leave a comment to this man’s video.

    Thank you in advance for any information.

  • Flo says:

    I used to sit by idly and let others be cruel to countless animals so i could eat their dead flesh and in this messed up world this behaviour is not considered sociopathic but “normal”. Luckily i learned the error of my ways and realised that my brain needed rewiring. How can we say we’d like peace on earth but are happy to gorge on meat everyday? Peace on Earth means peace for all it’s creatures right? Why are we happy to let cows and chickens suffer and die by the BILLION while calling cats and dogs our friends? Because thats just the way it is? Because thats how it’s always been? Sorry not a good enough reason. Why has it taken me 27 years to realise such a simple obvious truth?

  • Ana says:

    Yes I understand this but what about killing animals as sport or tradition often in the most painful and appalling ways why do these people not have feelings or enpathy i do not understand the difference sometimes

  • Hannah Genes says:

    I’m sorry this happened to you. You’re not weak- it is often the bravest of people who speak up for what they believe. Those who enjoy killing a living, feeling being have no compassion, and maybe your voice can teach both him and your husband some compassion.

  • Beverly says:

    I do have a comment. I was abused by a person when I was young and he did horribly abuse animals of many kinds. I have been to a psychologist regarding this incident and feel I have come out of it pretty well but my only issue now is if I am sitting at a table with friends and one of my friends husband is a deer hunter, he loves to tell his “stories of how he points the gun at them and continues with the story etc., as you already have figured out by now he kills the deer and is so proud. I leave the table anymore the first sign of him talking about his “hunting expeditions” , I don’t have to hear it, but my husband has called me “weak” for not letting him continue, can I have some other viewpoints, I don’t think I am weak, I looked at him in the eye after I left for a few minutes and politely asked him to please not talk about this in front of me, I think my husband was weak for not standing up for me? This has happened a few other times now and I still get up and walk away, I don’t care, I fell I am strong for standing up for myself and my beliefs!
    Please respond with your opinion, would really appreciate it!

  • Lindsey says:

    On Saturday, November 26 I went to go volunteer at my local animal shelter 1-5, and me and my dad came home around 5:10, there was a yellow cat eating out of the trash can, and my dad just snapped, he was in a pissy mood anyway. He said to shut my mouth and to get inside, so I did, and he grabbed his BB gun. I told him to stop, but my mom even told me to let him do it. My dad told me a BB gun wouldn’t kill a cat, but I didn’t believe if it could kill a rabbit. so I just went up stairs for the rest of the night, and went to bed. Sunday and Monday went by not thinking about the cat at all, and Tuesday comes up. I go to school, and come home and play soccer outside. The ball lands in the next yard, and I go get it, and on the way over there I see the cat, just laying there. I slam the ball on the ground, say some cuss words about my step dad, and walk inside. I grab two plastic bags and a shovel, and dig a big hole in the frozen ground. I gave the cat a proper burial, and I was there for it when no one else was. As you know I love animals, animals are my life. That’s why I go to the animal shelter every week, and that’s why I want to pursue a future in the animal field. And it just breaks my heart when someone does this So why is my dad doing this? Is it his anger releaser, something fun to do, or is he just a fucking careless sociopath that I don’t give a damn about anymore because he is just cruel, and careless, and he is ruining the one thing I care more about thin him, and That is animals, the only things that I can trust and won’t backstab you.

  • Francis says:

    I think some people who abuse animals may have been victims of abuse themselves.

  • Thomas Taber says:

    I want to STOP all animal abuse. How can I do this? I want your help .
    Thomas Taber 607-221-1054

  • Amanda says:

    This morning after a lovely walk in our local area, we saw four female pheasant hens had been deliberately driven over by someone on one side of the road, after we had driven that same stretch of road so it happened within the space of 1hr. Their bodies were spaced a few hundred meters apart on the same stretch of road. The sun was up, it’s a quiet, village location on bendy roads so speeding simply isn’t the cause and their bodies were on the side of the road, not the middle so these had been purposely hit. It was so sad to see their partners and friends, surrounding the bodies. We moved them into the field so that at least their friends or partners wouldn’t get run over. Someone, one of our fellow humans, who happens to live near my home, deliberately chose to drive into these beautiful, exceptionally sweet natured and friendly beings. It makes me sick to know that there is nothing I can legally do about it and this sociopathic individual walks among us and I have no idea who they are and I am unable to prevent them from doing it again. And knowing full well they are probably abusing everything in their path and again, powerless to prevent them from doing so.

  • H. Brown says:

    It’s really a nice and useful piece of info.
    I’m glad that you simply shared this helpful info with us.
    Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

  • Carol hardie says:

    I wonder if this describes the owners of the puppy farms who regularly abuse a large number of dogs and puppies and seem to get away with it. Are people buying sick and emotionally scarred puppies from someone with a sociopathic personality?

  • jessy joe says:

    if they can catch one person and put them in jail, it’s worth it

  • Dr. Karren says:

    There is this woman on Instagram who likes to let her dogs kill small wild animals as she watches. Her page should be banned but it’s not. She then brags about the murder of these defenseless creatures to her followers. Her name on Instagram is: SarahAnn80. She is the wife of a firefighter, posing as a normal person & mother. But, don’t be fooled, she’s something totally different. She has removed many pictures of the animal abuse but there is a hint of her true personality still laying under the picture she left up of a “dead squirrel” in her yard. Read what she wrote under the caption. Totally gives me chills! She appears normal but in reality, she enjoys the death of others & the control it gives her. So scary as she has hidden her true self from the public eye but allows bits of her real evilness to appear…

  • Sandy Maino says:

    Somebody please bring these no good, ruthless people to justice.
    I can’t take it anymore hearing on the news, the web, etc. about these pieces of crap people that are abusing and really torturing animals. I just read about one that burned a cat alive. That man deserves to go in the wood chipper, feet first, ALIVE!! And what happens? They get hardly NO jail time! You don’t know how I wish I can get my husband’s chain saw and torture these useless, ruthless, pieces of shit no-good people! If I didn’t get caught I WOULD KILL THEM MYSELF AND TORTURE THEM JUST LIKE THEY DO TO ANIMALS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Kyle says:

    Don’t mention the names of serial killers in this blog.
    But everything else was pretty good but’s it’s just really sad and almost disapointing that stuped people even think like this.


  • Sam Sparks says:

    I am so pleased when monster sub humans get hurt when hurting and maiming animals for fun Such perfect karma. I personally know of one story and was so pleased when I found out that he got exactly what he did to puppies. Renewed my faith in God

  • Nina says:

    I hate animal abuse. Every animal deserves to have a happy life not pressured or in labatories. Animals are killed in labatorues because of expierments. I feel so bad for every animal abused or is being.

  • Raman says:

    There is an another example to this animal cruelty. In most part of india and other south asian countries, I have seen adult persons abusing animals and even humans in public areas. Those who are nearby also joins this cruel act. This may indicate that these kind of cruel thoughts arise simultaneously in individuals who are raised in an environment that gave importance to the feelings of animals.

  • Rosemary Graham-Gardner says:

    No need for a professional view. Anybody killing an animal for the sake of killing is a sicko, pervert.
    We are by far the most dangerous and destructive animal on this Planet!

  • Dieabuse says:

    So it makes me a sociopath for wanting to hurt people? I want to hurt these people. These stupid little people who hurt defenceless animals. I want to torture them and tear them in to tiny little pieces so they can feel what they’ve done. As i write this, im crying. I’ve just read about Ugly, a stray who everyone hated because he was just that; ugly. People threw rocks at him, but he never hurt back. They slammed his paws in their doors when he rubbed against them or their houses. They would spray him with hose pipes but he wouldn’t run away, and he would curl up at your feet afterwards. When he was about 3, he was attacked and killed by a dog that he was rubbing up against. How anyone could hurt such a kind cat i will never know, but not all these people could be sociopaths if the entire neighborhood treated him the same way.

  • David Peeke says:

    Im a huge animal lover,and some of the things that go on now a days towards animals is so unfathomable. I WAS on facebook today reading a post from someone trying to justify all those pilot whales slaughtered. I M no wimp, ive spent the last 18.5 years outta the last 20 in prison. But when I read this story and saw those pictures, and read how half of them were pregnant and fetus were cut out of them,I started crying my head off. Yet you have these mindless, heartless, psychopaths trying to justify this Danish tradition.Ya well all you Danish people who believe this IS ok to slaughter all these innocent, gentle, beautiful creatures you better hope that I NEVER MAKE IT THERE TO WITNESS THIS, BECAUSE FOR ME PERSONALLY, I WOULD STOP IT FROM HAPPENING, FOR THAT DAY ANYWAYS,EVEN IF IT MENT I WOULD HAVE TO SPEND THE REST OF MY LIFE IN PRISON FOR IT. NOT JUST THAT BUT, CLUBBING BABY SEALS, THAT JAPANESE DOLPHIN SLAUGHTER, AND HURTING ANY OTHER ANIMAL FOR KICKS. THIS IS JUST MY OPINION OF COURSE BUT FOR ME,, THERE IS ONLY ONE OBVIOUS PUNISHMENT THAT SHOULD BE INFLICTED ON THESE KINDS OF ANIMAL ABUSERS. EYE FOR AN EYE,YOU WANT TO CLUB BABY SEALS TOUGH GUY GOOD,SEE HOW YOU LIKE WHEN I CLUB YOU WITH THE SAME CLUB,YOU WANT TO HACK UP SWEET LITTLE INNOCENT DOLPHINS WITH MACHETES,GOOD, WE’LL SEE HOW LONG IT TAKES YOU TO LEARN YOUR LESSON WHEN I DO THE SAME TO YOU.AWWWWWWWWWWWW, IT MAKES ME SO VIOLENTLY ILL EMOTIONALLY AND PHYSICALLY WHEN I HEAR EVERY SINGLE DAY ABOUT ANOTHER CASE OF SENSELESS ANIMAL ABUSE.

  • I was abused in many ways as a little girl. The only way I got through a lot of it. Was to turn to my animals. Many of nights I slept in my dogs dog house with her to keep warm. I would hug her and tell her she was my best friend and she was. I had 3 cats, a dove I rescued from a storm, who wouldn’t fly away when grown, a guinea hen, 3 dogs, a gerbil and a parakeet. Everyone of our animals were found on the street or abused by another. So we took them and loves them forever. After all the abuse as a child. I learned to love animals more than ever. I looked at them to be as helpless as me. And no child or animal should be anused because they can’t fight back. Sick sick world. I’m so happy I love animals. I owe so much to my mom for teaching me to care for them. If you are abused you should know how it feels and never do it to anyone or any animal. Learn to love animals. They will always return the love.

  • Yvette Fouché says:

    Some animal abusers are without doubt sociopaths but saying that only sociopaths are animal abusers is excusing all people who are not sociopaths but still abuse animal.

  • jacob Eagleshield says:

    Being Native American,respect for our four legged,and other two legged brothers is drummed into us at a very early age. Most people,especially ‘trophy’ hunters just don’t get it.
    I had a friend,who knew a family that had a son who tortured animals. Especially cats for some odd reason. No matter what they did,therapy etc. He simply would not stop. That childs name was Ted Bundy. Enough said.

  • Erica says:

    While yes animal abuse is a red flag for many violent tendencies as an adult or even sociopathic tendencies that is not that only case. Often times childred who are victims of abuse act out the abuse they have experienced onto animals because they are weaker and it allows them to feel that power someone else has over them. It’s very well documented that children of abuse are likely to act out abusive acts onto animals or smaller children. It obviously still requires help from a professional but it’s not fair to label all those who have a history of harming animals as sociopaths when they are not. In your attempt to save animals from harm dont go around making generalizations about people that can be hurtful and harmful. Respect for all life is key.

  • Janice Williams says:

    These people that hurt the cattle and the horses and the pigs that they show on TV need to be brought to justice. What are they doing to their families while at home. To see a full grown man punch a calf in the face time after time is just too much for me. It made me cry. I was wishing I could kill that supposed so called man and all the other little men that were violating the animals, beating them just because they can. Kicking them in the face with their boots oh my god, I just can’t take it. These are not men. They are the worst of the worst and do not deserve to be out in the public. They need to be locked up and let the animals go free. DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS DISGUSTING ACT AGAINST ALL ANIMALS. PLEASE I CAN’T TAKE IT. PLEASE I AM BEGGING OF YOU TO ACT UPON THIS NOW.

  • gdan says:

    Sociopaths are despicable individuals but they are but a fraction of one per cent of the general population. The average meat eater is responsible for the vast majority of animal abuse in this world. They ignore the plight of food animals while claiming to be an animal lover, of cats and dogs mostly. Most are not even concerned about the great extinction of wild animals that is occurring now. I can’t worry about the sociopaths when my friends and family are responsible for most of the carnage.

  • Ms Lois Koch says:

    I know some people may really be sick and tired of hearing it; BUT I really think this bears repeating. It has come out that the Nazis trained the SS from boyhood to be cruel to animals starting with flies, butterflies and so on going from BIG to BIGGER and finally they “graduated” to harming and killing children and older people. I don’t think Our Lord meant any form of life to be so maltreated.

  • Lise Ringuet says:

    I’ve just looked at your booklet. I live in Montreal and I can tell you that here in Canada, the law does nothing for animals. People who hurt them get away with it. It’s a shame.

  • Margaret says:

    Very well written. Parents, teachers, and neighbors need to be aware and catch these traits before it becomes a part of the adult personality. I believe that ,if found soon enough, it may be possible to teach that animals reward you in so many ways for being kind.
    Pleasereport and neglect any cruelty to animals!! Lets stop this. It may a life.

  • Robin says:

    I hope this important booklet gets in the hands of law enforcement, justice workers and social workers as well. Thank you, PETA, for producing it. Some is so very wrong with people who “get a rush” from hurting other beings. I wish society/people would realize such harm is wrong regardless of whether the perpetrator extends cruelty to human victims.

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