The Animal Abuse Registry Database Administration System (AARDAS) project has evolved considerably since our first launch in January of 2002. As it becomes more sophisticated, it becomes important for us to disclose how the system works, and the reasoning behind our classifications.
The abuse classifications and case titles listed reflect the opinions of Pet-Abuse.Com, and may not necessarily reflect the crime the individual(s) were charged with. For example, there is no criminal statute against "hoarding" - any charges that would be a result of a hoarding case generally fall under the neglect or kenneling laws. Because the psychological elements in hoarding cases are different than in a typical neglect case, we use a classification that sets it apart to allow us to gather useful statistics about the demographic of the suspects in those kinds of cases.
While we make every effort to present only factual representations of cases, we do use our own judgement when classifying cases and determining some of the other fields. We utilize our experience in working with criminal animal cruelty cases to determine the most appropriate abuse type classification(s) for each case, and each classification is checked at least twice by separate staff members.
Classifications and other fields should not be used to determine what specific charges the suspect is facing or was convicted of - they are for research and statistical purposes only. The case report itself will outline the specific charges.
It is not uncommon to see multiple types of cruelty committed during the same crime, especially when the crime is particularly violent. For example, in stabbing or mutilation cases, we often see additional violent abuse types occurring, such as hanging or burning. In less "intimate" crimes, such as shooting or poisoning, this is less common.
This can possibly be partly explained by the fact that a large percentage of shooting and poisoning cases are situations where a community member has killed an animal they feel is a nuisance. In these situations, the person of interest may have no empathy or consideration for the suffering of the animal they have harmed or killed, but they are typically not harming the animals simply to cause them to suffer.
At this time, each case is allowed a maximum of three abuse classifications.
Also see Factors in the Assessment of Dangerousness in Perpetrators of Animal Cruelty by Dr. Randall Lockwood.
Classification: The Gray Areas
While the vast majority of classifications are clear and self-explanatory, there may be gray areas in some cases. One example would be in a case where a dog was stabbed and skinned - we may classify that as Mutilation/Torture (as opposed to Stabbing) because of the excessive brutality and deliberate actions involved - or we may classify it with a primary abuse type of Mutilation/Torture and a secondary of Stabbing. You will always be able to see how we have classified a case by looking at the "Case Snapshot" in the top-right section of the case report.
Abuse Connection Cases
A case is considered to be an abuse connection case if one or more of the suspects has a history of interpersonal violence. Interpersonal violence can be assault, menacing, domestic violence, child abuse, arson, robbery, murder, or any other violent crime.
Non-violent offenses are not considered for this field. We currently do not track the percentage of suspects with non-violent criminal records, however we may say anecdotally that we frequently see drug and alcohol related crimes in animal abuse suspects. Personal and property crimes occurring in conjunction with the commission of animal cruelty, (e.g. vandalism, theft, threats to assault on owner or witness) should be considered indicative of higher risk for other violent and/or criminal acts.
This field was introduced to begin to gain meaningful data about the connection between animal cruelty and interpersonal violence, and more specifically, what types of animal cruelty seem to have the most connections.
On paper, this concept made perfect sense - but the reality is that the vast majority of interpersonal violence is never reported, especially in cases of domestic violence, so the percentages we come up with fall well below the numbers that other well-known studies have turned up. Additionally, we do not have the resources to monitor every convicted abuser in the database for the rest of their lives to find out whether they become involved with interpersonal violence down the line.
Additionally, due to poor communication between departments, it is common for Animal Control to not even be aware of a suspect's criminal history - and even more likely that the police are not aware of previous animal abuse complaints. Hopefully, as more and more agencies begin to take a more holistic approach to domestic peace and begin to work together more, we will see increased communication and cooperation between each of these public service agencies.
In late 2004, Pet-Abuse.Com added another field related to this subject. We now record whether or not the abuse occurred within the context of an argument or domestic dispute. This could be an argument with a neighbor, spouse, housemate, or anyone else. This allows us to capture more of the meaningful data related to the abuse connection without being limited to suspects that have a proven track record of violence. We make the determination as to whether or not the abuse occurred within the context of an argument or domestic dispute based on what the suspect says (it is not uncommon for the abuser to admit that they abused the animal to get back at someone or because they were angry as the result of an argument) and what the police, prosecuting attorney and/or investigating officers say.
Using violence against an animal as a form of threat or intimidation is often symptomatic of more generalized violence. The additional intimidation of written or verbal threats (e.g. notes left with an animal body or letters sent to someone who cared about the animal), are strongly indicative of potential for escalated violence. The behavior of killing or harming (or threatening to kill or harm) a family pet in an effort to exact revenge or gain control over another individual is extremely common, severely under-reported and cause for great concern.
Child and Elder Neglect
This field was introduced in June 2005, and is intended to demonstrate the correlations between certain types of animal cruelty and child or elder neglect. One challenge we have faced is the fact that in severe cases of child or elder neglect, the charges focus around the child and not the animals, so the animal abuse is never recorded and therefore the correlation is never made.
While the decision as to whether or not to flag a case as having child or elder neglect occurring is based upon the reports of the authorities, this flag should not be taken to mean that the person(s) of interest have had charges brought against them for child or elder neglect. In many cases, the caretakers are given the opportunity to improve conditions and are not formally charged. (As to the effectiveness of the agency's follow-up to ensure that improvements have been made, that varies widely from city to city.)
Once again, this is a good example of how the lives of children, the elderly and animals can be improved or even saved by agencies working together and sharing information.
Animal Was Bound or Tied
"Abuse that includes binding, tying, securing with duct tape, confining in a box or bag or otherwise rendering the animal incapable of escape (e.g. crippling) is suggestive of a higher degree of intentional, premeditated violence." - see Factors in the Assessment of Dangerousness in Perpetrators of Animal Cruelty by Dr. Randall Lockwood.Last Updated: Aug 15, 2005