OJJDP logo
  September 2001

Animal Abuse and Youth Violence

Frank R. Ascione


Defining Animal Abuse

Prevalence of Cruelty to Animals by Children and Adolescents

Limitations of Adult Reports on Children’s Cruelty to Animals

Animal Abuse and Violent Offending

Animal Abuse and Conduct Disorder

Motivations That May Underlie Animal Abuse by Children and Adolescents

The Etiology of Animal Abuse

Policy Implications and Recommendations





A Message From OJJDP

Although legal definitions of animal abuse vary, it is a crime in every State, and many States have enacted laws establishing certain forms of cruelty to animals as felony offenses. The forms of abuse to which animals may be subjected are similar to the forms of abuse children experience, including physical abuse, serious neglect, and even psychological abuse.

It has been said that violence begets violence, but what do we know about the nature of the relationship between the abuse of animals and aggressive behavior towards human beings?

This Bulletin describes psychiatric, psychological, and criminal research linking animal abuse to violence perpetrated by juveniles and adults.

Particular attention is focused on the prevalence of cruelty to animals by children and adolescents and to the role of animal abuse as a possible symptom of conduct disorder. In addition, the motivations and etiology underlying the maltreatment of animals are thoroughly reviewed.

The abuse of sentient creatures demands our attention. The Bulletin includes recommendations to curb such cruelty, while providing contact information for additional resources concerned with violence perpetrated against animals and people.

It is our hope that the information that this Bulletin offers will contribute to reducing both forms of violence.


NCJ 188677

Points of view or opinions expressed in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of OJJDP or the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office for Victims of Crime.


Frank R. Ascione, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology and Adjunct Professor of Family and Human Development at Utah State University. The author thanks Rolf Loeber for his support and encouragement during the preparation of this Bulletin.

Photo of dog copyright ©1997–99 Photodisc, Inc.; photo of young boy and cat copyright ©1998–2001, Eyewire, Inc.

Share With Your Colleagues

Unless otherwise noted, OJJDP publications are not copyright protected. We encourage you to reproduce this document, share it with your colleagues, and reprint it in your newsletter or journal. However, if you reprint, please cite OJJDP and the authors of this Bulletin. We are also interested in your feedback, such as how you received a copy, how you intend to use the information, and how OJJDP materials meet your individual or agency needs. Please direct your comments and questions to:

Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse
Publication Reprint/Feedback
P.O. Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849–6000
301–519–5600 (fax)
E-Mail: tellncjrs@ncjrs.org

OJJDP Home | About OJJDP | E-News | Topics | Funding | Programs
State Contacts | Publications | Statistics | Events