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PR Children and Animals Suffer Abuse in Domestic Violence

Humane Society of Southern Arizona



Animal Cruelty Taskforce of Southern Arizona Recognizes
National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

For Release On:
October 8, 2001
Page 1 of 2

Contact information regarding this public awareness campaign:
Marsh Myers or Jami McDowell, Humane Society of Southern Arizona:
(520) 321-3704, Ext. 125 or 141

Regarding law enforcement and prosecution information:
Det. Mike Duffey, Pima County Sheriff’s Department: (520) 741-4751
Grace Atwell, Pima County Attorney’s Office, Juvenile Division: (520) 740-5086
Bill Rowe, Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections: (520) 818-3484, Ext. 506

Regarding domestic violence and child abuse issues:
Kathleen Mayer or Brad Roach, Pima County Attorneys Office: (520) 740-5671 or 740-5664
Rebecca Edmonds, Governor’s Commission on Domestic Violence: (520) 906-9961

Tucson- Children and animals are usually the most vulnerable members of a family… and when the family is plagued with violence, they are often the first abused, warns the Animal Cruelty Taskforce of Southern Arizona (ACT). It is a connection that child welfare professionals frequently see when they enter an abusive home.

“Children and animals have similar levels of helplessness,” said Bill Rowe, Volunteer Coordinator for the Catalina Mountain School and an ACT member. “If there’s someone in the household who cannot control his rage, and he’s looking for victims, the kids and the dog or cat may be the first family members he goes after.”

The batterer may even count on the vulnerability of children and animals to shield him from discovery and prosecution. For example, both children and animals can be easily controlled by an abusive parent or guardian and are limited in their ability to request outside help.

“The family dog cannot pick up the phone and call 911,” said Grace Atwell, a deputy Pima County attorney in the Juvenile Division and an ACT member. “Chances are the parent can keep the child from calling for help too. When you’re that small and weak, you are completely at the mercy of the adults. Batterers have an entire bag of tricks available to them on how to abuse the family members without being discovered.”

One “trick” is when a batterer will use the family pet to control the child. Threats and torture against the cat or dog are powerful control mechanisms and will easily intimidate the child into silence.

“It’s hard enough to tell anyone that you are being victimized,” said Atwell, “but when you are afraid that your favorite pet may be killed if you do talk, your silence is virtually assured.”

In some cases, the violence against the animal may become so great that the child will actually kill the pet to end its misery. In other cases, the child will imitate the family violence by using the pets as his victims. Once the child begins down this violent path, it becomes increasingly hard to rehabilitate him.

“The juvenile courts are clogged with cases involving children and violence,” said Rowe. “Sometimes the system does not take animal cruelty committed by juveniles seriously enough. But violence against animals is a cry for help. If we don’t hear it, that child will probably graduate onto human victims by the time he’s in middle or high school and then we’ll be forced to deal with him.”

Local law enforcement and the Humane Society of Southern Arizona are trying to raise awareness about this type of violence through a school-based program called the Juvenile Animal Cruelty Rapid Response Program. The program was first implemented by the Tucson Police Department’s School Resource Office (SRO) and the Humane Society’s Education Department about two years ago. Since that time, the program has assisted in a number of cases in which children and animals were caught in a similar web of violence. The most profound case came in February 2000 when the grotesque mutilation of a dog was found in a park behind Vail Middle School in Tucson. Tucson Police SRO’s first investigated to see if there was a link to the student body, but later concluded that the crime was probably committed by an adult in the hope of terrorizing the students.

Bill Rowe implemented a novel program at the Catalina Mountain School a little over a year ago. The school, which is run by the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections, uses animals and animal care skills to build a sense of empathy and responsibility in its all-male offender population. The Humane Society of Southern Arizona runs the classes and brings up animals for visitation. “We’ve graduated about six classes through this program,” Rowe stated. “And some of those boys are now working full or part-time with animals in the community.” The next step Rowe and the Humane Society hope will be a permanent kennel on the school grounds.

“Cruelty can spread like a virus,” stated Marsh Myers, the Humane Society’s Director of Education who participates in both Rapid Response and the Catalina Mountain School program. “These programs are partially designed to keep that from happening by helping our schools to send a very strong message – these are criminal acts and will not be tolerated.”

Statistics compiled by the Humane Society of the United States indicate that animal cruelty was one of the most consistent precursors to schoolyard shootings. In many cases, other students, parents and teachers were aware that animals were being victimized but did nothing to stop it. Later, the young abusers turned their rage toward their fellow students and teachers.

ACT’s campaign will also include a free daylong seminar entitled “The Role of Animals in Domestic Violence” on October 10th. This free seminar will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the downtown branch of the Tucson-Pima Public Library. The seminar will deal with all these topics in greater detail and will provide participants with free literature and resources. Attendance is limited to 50 people and pre-registration is required by contacting Jami McDowell at the Humane Society of Southern Arizona at 321-3704, Ext. 141.

Additional information on ACT’s campaign is available by contacting the Humane Society at 321-3704, Ext. 125 or 141 or visiting the ACT website at


“One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it.” –Anthropologist Margaret Mead

    Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the adolescent gunmen in the worst school shooting in American history, frequently tortured and killed animals according to a Boston Globe article. The high school shooting, which were originally designed to kill up to 500 people, claimed over a dozen lives through gunshot and shrapnel wounds from exploding pipebombs. Harris and Klebold were also outspoken in their admiration of Adolf Hitler, firearms, explosives, Satanic occult practices and the violence-laden lyrics of singer Marilyn Manson.

    Kip Kinkle, 15, allegedly walked into his high school cafeteria and opened fire on his classmates. Two classmates were killed and twenty-two others injured, four critically. Later that day police found Kinkle’s parents shot to death in their home. Friends and family have indicated that Kinkel had a history of animal abuse and torture. Friends said that he often bragged about torturing and killing animals.

    Seven and eight year-old brothers and an eleven year-old friend were arrested for kidnapping, beating and sexually assaulting a 3 year-old girl. A local television station reported that the brothers had been involved in animal cruelty.

    Mitchell Johnson, 13, and Andrew Golden, 11, allegedly shot and killed four students and one teacher ambushed during a fire drill at their school. A school friend of Golden stated that Andrew “said he shot dogs all the time with a .22.”

    Luke Woodham, 16, allegedly stabbed his mother to death. Woodham they allegedly went to his high school where he shot and killed two classmates and injured seven others. Woodham stated in his personal journal that he and an accomplice beat, burned and tortured his dog, Sparkle, to death. He said it was “true beauty.”

    Michael Carneal, 14, allegedly shot and killed three classmates at school. According to another student, Carneal talked about throwing a cat into a bonfire.

    Rod Ferrell, 17, “vampire cult leader” and cult members Heather Wendorf, 16; Howard Anderson, 17; Dana Cooper, 20; and Charity Keesee, 17; were arrested in connection with the bludgeoning deaths of Wendorf’s parents. Media accounts include animal torture and mutilation as part of their rituals.

    A 17 year-old, along with two 15 year-old friends, were arrested in the beating death of a 15 year-old friend. Officials reported that the old boy had a history of fire starting and animal torture, including an incident at age 11 where he is reported to have thrown a cat in the air until he broke two of its legs.

    “Jack,” a 16 year-old serial sex offender in Cleveland was charged with rape and sexual battery. His other victims reportedly included infants and animals.

  • AUGUST 2, 1993 – BATH, NEW YORK
    Eric Smith, 13, was convicted in the beating death of a 4 year-old boy. Four years prior to the murder, a neighbor said Smith choked his cat to death with a garden hose clamp. Smith never gave any reason for killing either the boy or the cat.

    Michael Wayne Echols, 18; Jessie Lloyd Misskelley, Jr., 17; and Charles Jason Baldwin, 16; were arrested for the brutal murder of three 8 year-old boys. The three victims were lured into the woods, beaten into unconsciousness, one was sexually mutilated, another raped, and all three killed. For some time prior to the killings, the three teenagers were involved in satanic-type rituals. During an initiation ceremony, they killed, skinned, and ate dogs. Echols was also carrying a head of a cat with him at the time of the child murders.

    Shawn Novak, 16, was convicted of slashing the throats of two young neighborhood boys and was sentenced to life in prison. Several years prior to the incident, friends reported that Novak would wear a cat’s paw on a necklace and would brag about killing animals. They also reported that he showed them dead birds, cats’ heads and other animal remains.

Courtesy of

3450 N Kelvin Blvd
Tucson, Arizona 85716
Shelter Phone: (520) 327-6088

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