Animal Welfare: Cruelty barbaric in itself, and tied to other offenses

 That’s not just my opinion. Criminologist Jack Levin conducted a three-year study that concluded animal abusers are five times more likely to commit violence against humans. The FBI, U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice consider animal cruelty to be one of the early warning signs of potential violence by youths. A Chicago Police Department study showed that 65 percent of people charged with animal abuse crimes were also charged with violent crimes against people.

Consider Jeffrey Dahmer, who progressed from cutting up animals to cutting up humans and eating them. Or Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Strangler, who killed 13 women before his capture. He also began by sadistically killing animals. Ted Bundy, David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz and Ted “Unabomber” Kaczynski all had a history of torturing animals.

Animal abusers also are more likely to engage in other illegal acts. For example:

• When San Luis Obispo County, Calif., authorities raided an alleged international cockfighting operation earlier this year, in addition to retrieving 1,000 roosters, fighting and training equipment and bird performance-enhancing drugs, authorities also confiscated cocaine, marijuana and a pound of methamphetamine.

• In Phoenix, police shut down a crime syndicate that preyed on illegal immigrants, subjecting them to kidnappings, home invasions and armed robberies. Members of the syndicate also are accused of raising roosters for illegal cockfighting matches. A January raid uncovered weapons, a bullet-resistant vest, cash, ammo and 31 fighting roosters.

• In Tennessee, federal authorities arrested members of a Mexican drug trafficking cartel in December known as the Gulf Cartel. The operation led agents to a group of drug traffickers who ran a large gambling enterprise in Tennessee that included a massive and intricate cockfighting enterprise that one federal official called the “largest” he has ever seen in the United States. The Gulf Cartel is responsible for transporting multi-ton quantities of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana into the United States from Colombia, Guatemala, Panama and Mexico, as well as distributing narcotics within the United States. The Gulf Cartel is also believed to have laundered multiple millions of dollars in criminal proceeds.

These are not isolated cases. And while some believe animal fighting is embedded in certain cultures and therefore cannot be and should not be stopped, there is strong evidence to the contrary. Eight years to the day before former NFL star Michael Vick was sentenced for a dog-fighting conspiracy, then-President Clinton signed into law a bill I authored that prohibits the creation, sale or possession with the intent to sell a depiction of illegal animal cruelty in interstate commerce for commercial gain.

The law was specifically aimed at purveyors of so-called crush videos, where small — and sometimes large — animals were crushed to death under the stiletto heels or bare feet of scantily clad women for the sexual excitement of the viewer. The actresses, the producers and the distributors came from all ethnic backgrounds. At the time, the animal cruelty tapes sold for up to $300 and more than 2,000 titles were available. Today, the industry virtually has been wiped out, although the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case in which a distributor claims a First Amendment right to distribute these death tapes.

The business of animal cruelty is itself reprehensible. In order to foster the viciousness of dogs, trainers bait them with puppies, cats and other small animals. Smaller dogs are often cut or stabbed and tossed in with the larger fighting dogs. These dogs, having been beaten and deprived, maul the smaller animals to death.

Once in the ring, dogs are forced to fight with severe injuries, often until one or more dogs are dead. Spectators force dogs to continue fighting by prodding and hitting them with sharp objects.

Birds raised for fighting are tormented to make them aggressive and pumped full of stimulants to increase endurance. Strychnine is one of the most popular stimulants. It and other drugs give birds a boost despite multiple puncture wounds or knife wounds.

Cockfights usually result in the death of one, if not both roosters. Handlers place two roosters in an enclosed pit. The roosters have knives or sharp steel projections called gaffs attached to their legs and peck and maim one another with their beaks and gaffs. Spectators viewing the fights bet large sums of money. The handler of a winning rooster often makes a big profit.

Children often witness this cruel spectacle. Adults bring children to fights as a form of initiation.

It’s clear that animal cruelty goes hand in hand with gang activity, illegal gambling, drug trafficking, illegal immigration and acts of human violence. Animal cruelty in all its forms is barbaric. It also desensitizes the participants, many of whom go on to commit violence against humans.

That is why I and other members of Congress continue to provide law enforcement authorities with tools to crack down on animal cruelty. It’s a vicious crime and needs to be treated as such.

Gallegly is a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee.


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