The 1999 case of Chad Alvarez, a student at the University of Wisconsin who microwaved his frat brother’s parrot, gives us a chilling reminder that not everyone feels the same compassion toward animals that many pet lovers do. More disturbing, however, can be how those close to the person who has tortured and killed an animal can rationalize and even downplay the seriousness of the offense.
The torture and killing of animals has long been shown to be predictive of violence towards humans. Take, for example, the recent rash of school killings that have occurred over the past few years. Kipland Kinkel, the boy responsible for the Oregon school killings, had a history of torturing and killing animals. Luke Woodham, the 16-year-old boy in Mississippi who killed his mother, two classmates, and wounded seven others, wrote in his diary all about how he tortured, burned, and killed his own dog, Sparkle. Many acquaintances of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the Columbine High School killers, say they bragged about mutilating animals. Serial killers such as John Wayne Gacy, Ed Kemper, Henry Lee Lucas, and Sam Berkowitz all had a history of animal torture and killing.
Clearly, when a child or young adult tortures or kills an animal it is indicative of deep-rooted problems. In order for these young people to understand the seriousness of their violent impulses, they should face consequences.
Margaret Mead, probably the most well known anthropologist in the world, said, “One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill and torture an animal and get away with it.”
Mead understood that when young people are allowed to carry out their violent fantasies on animals, the next logical step is often for them to turn this violence on human beings.
The case of Chad Alvarez both disturbs and enlightens. The college youth pled no contest earlier in the year to a drunk driving charge. Often, this sort of cruelty and alcohol abuse go hand in hand. Again, both can be predictors of future violence. In other news over the past year there have been a number of similar cases. Last year, two teenagers broke into a man’s house to rob it and decided to microwave his senegal parrot. A couple of teenagers in Iowa broke into a rescue home for cats and beat many of the defenseless animals to death. Recently in American Falls, Idaho, upwards of 36 dogs have disappeared. A large number of them were found later, shot to death. Just this month some teens killed a puppy by attaching an M-80 firecracker to its collar and exploding it. Recently, even a veterinarian was convicted of animal cruelty.
The Humane Society of the United States started the First Strike Campaign in 1998 in order to better educate the public about animal cruelty and its implications in society. It gives citizens information on how to recognize this behavior pattern and how to deal with it in their neighborhoods and schools.
Anyone who is shocked by these acts of cruelty should speak out. Many people on the Internet have started banner campaigns so you can show your support for making the torturing and killing of animals a felony. Maybe if these people are caught early and stopped, we can prevent a few murders in the future.