Animal abuse serves as 'link' to other crimes

Wiggins Police Chief Matt Barnett provided a presentation on the link between animal abuse to other violent crimes during the Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police Winter Education Conference. (Photo by Logan Kirkland, SDN)
By: 
LOGAN KIRKLAND
Staff Writer

Wiggins Police Chief Matt Barnett provided a presentation on the link between animal abuse to other violent crimes during the Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police Winter Education Conference.

"There is a need for this training," Barnett said. "The best predictor of what's going to happen is what our past has been."

Barnett said there is a definite connection between violent crime offenders and animal cruelty. These crimes consist of child abuse, neglect, elder abuse and sexual assault.

During his presentation he said 30 percent of child molesters admitted having a history of animal abuse. He continued saying the number one crime in 43 percent of school shooters is animal abuse. He said 88 percent of physical child abusers also linked to a case where an animal was also abused.

One particular instance Barnett referenced in Mississippi was a school shooting in 1997, which happened in Pearl. The shooter tortured and burned his dog prior to killing his own mother.

Barnett said In recent news of the shooter who killed 26 people in a Texas church shooting, it was reported in the Denver Post the man had a citation of animal cruelty where he beat and stomped a dog.

With serial killers, Barnett said even the most prominent like Jeffrey Dahmer and the Boston Strangler had a history of animal abuse.

"These are the kind of people who start out with animal abuse and this is where they wind up in life," Barnett said. "That's the kind of things that you can deal with."

When it comes to violations of animal abuse, Barnett said people are not being punished severely for their actions. He said it is a misdemeanor for animal abuse.

"Our laws are weak," Barnett said. "If they'll do that to animal, they'll do it to you."

Barnett recommended departments to keep a close eye on offenders when dealing with animal abuse because there is usually a connection of domestic or child abuse.

"Those three things kind of go hand in hand," Barnett said.

In terms of combating the issue, Barnett encouraged chiefs to get behind new legislation, which would increase penalties to offenders of animal abuse and neglect.

He said currently if someone were to kill three dogs or three cats, they would only receive one count of animal abuse. In the new legislation, it would allow the offenders to receive multiple accounts.

The new legislation would also extend the statute of limitations from three years to five.

For safety, Barnett encourages departments to equip animal control officers with some sort of protection if they are responding to a call. Barnett said in many cases the offender could be violent.

He also recommends departments to gather as much information on the property and visit the premises during the daylight to avoid any injuries or lawsuits caused by violent animals.

With animal abuse in Mississippi, Barnett said it is important to utilize any help from humane societies and from other resources like UPS workers, water meter inspectors and other residents to keep an eye out for offenders.

He said for anyone who does not have the time, money or resources to take care of an animal to please reach out to the community and they will provide the needed help.

"We have animal control in the city and we have humane society in the county, we would be glad to come get your dog," Barnett said.

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