Weekly Top 10

About PETA Prime Are you ready to make a big difference for yourself, animals, and the Earth through simple day-to-day choices? PETA Prime has all the information you need to live a healthy, humane, and rewarding life.


  • Apr
  • 6

Only Sociopaths Intentionally Hurt Animals: A Professional View

Posted by at 6:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)


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.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

About Family & Friends

Make your time with your friends and family—including your animal companions—even more meaningful.

Recent Comments


The information and views provided here are intended for informational and preliminary educational purposes only. From time to time, content may be posted on the site regarding various financial planning and human and animal health issues. Such content is never intended to be and should never be taken as a substitute for the advice of readers' own financial planners, veterinarians, or other licensed professionals. You should not use any information contained on this site to diagnose yourself or your companion animals' health or fitness. Readers in need of applicable professional advice are strongly encouraged to seek it. Except where third-party ownership or copyright is indicated or credited regarding materials contained in this blog, reproduction or redistribution of any of the content for personal, noncommercial use is enthusiastically encouraged.