While the exact reasons for intentional animal cruelty may vary, nine typologies have been identified by Kellert and Felthous (1985, 1122-1124). In the cases within the animal cruelty database, we see these typologies over and over:

  1. to control an animal
  2. to retaliate against an animal
  3. to retaliate against another person
  4. to satisfy a prejudice against a species or breed
  5. to express anger through an animal
  6. to enhance one's own aggressiveness
  7. to shock people for amusement
  8. to displace hostility from a person to an animal
  9. to perform non-specific sadism

Reference: Kellert, S.R. and A.R. Felthous. 1985. Childhood cruelty to animals among criminals and non-criminals. Human Relations 38:1113-29.

It is not uncommon for the animal abuser to admit to authorities that they killed an animal to get back at a person they were angry at, or to "punish" the animal for bad behavior