Cruelty to animals a sign the abuser is disturbed, dangerous by Ed Boks

Adam and Nancy Lanza (Reuters:Facebook)
Adam and Nancy Lanza (Reuters:Facebook)

Many of us are still attempting to cope with one of the most senseless crimes in our lifetime, perhaps in our nation’s history – the cold-blooded murder of 20 children and six teachers.  In the aftermath of this heinous crime, law enforcement, educators and mental health professionals are again asking themselves if there are ways we can predict and perhaps prevent such tragedies.

In a Dec. 22 USA Today article, “Predicting violent behavior isn’t easy,” experts described five characteristics that mass killers exhibit that lead to accurate predictions of who is most likely to kill. Those five characteristics are previous violent or aggressive behavior; being a victim of physical or sexual abuse; guns in the home; use of drugs or alcohol; and brain damage from a head injury.

I was surprised to find that one of the most recognized risk factors for future violence was not even mentioned: animal abuse.

Both the American Psychological Association and the FBI recognize animal abuse or torture as an important indicator of future violent behavior toward humans. So serious is animal abuse that it is a felony in every state except North and South Dakota. In Tennessee, even hunting for the “pleasure” of killing the animal without the purpose of hunting for food consumption is considered aberrant behavior.

Research has found that most animal abusers suffer from low self-esteem, lack of emotional maturity, feelings of resentment toward others or society, displaced aggression (the helpless animal is blamed for the killer’s unhappiness), loneliness, and an inability to establish constructive social relationships. Abusers often suffered from childhood neglect and/or physical abuse themselves. Animal abusers almost always suffer from mental illness and require professional treatment.

Arizona law stipulates that cruelty to animals is a Class 6 felony which, if convicted, could result in a year of jail time and as much as $150,000 in fines. According to Arizona State Statute § 13-2910 a person commits animal cruelty when the person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly subjects an animal to cruel neglect or abandonment; fails to provide medical attention necessary to prevent protracted suffering; inflicts unnecessary physical injury; or subjects an animal to cruel mistreatment.

So the big question is, can we predict (and hopefully prevent) who might commit heinous crimes, including mass murder? Some studies suggest that we can. Many researchers are confident that animal abuse is an early indicator of future violence towards humans. One study of 314 inmates published in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect (1997) conducted by University of Iowa professors Karla Miller and John Knutson found that a high percentage of the subjects charged with violent crimes, including murder, initially engaged in various types of animal cruelty.

There are more than 55 national organizations, including several in Arizona, whose mission it is to prevent, stop and help prosecute individuals who engage in animal cruelty. Reporting abusers not only protects our community, but may prevent the individual from committing serious crimes against humans, including mass murders and other highly aggressive and destructive behaviors in the future.

Any parent who sees this type of behavior in their children should immediately seek out professional help for the child. Treating animals cruelly are not isolated incidents; almost every serial killer has a history of animal abuse. This is a fact, not a coincidence.

If you want to help animal victims of cruelty in your community, please send a designated donation to your local animal shelter.

2012 paradigm shift in animal welfare by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and ape
Science acknowledges non-human sentience

The current issue of Animal People contains a noteworthy article, entitled “The most overlooked victory for animals of 2012.”  The article, written by Kim Bartlett, president of Animal People, reported on a potentially earth shaking paradigm shift that sadly went largely unnoticed.

On July 7, 2012, a prominent international group of neuroscientists, biologists and physicists (including the eminent Stephen Hawking) gathered at the Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Human and non-Human Animals and signed the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness; which states:

We declare the following: the absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviours. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess substrates.”

This declaration repudiates the 17th Century, “father of modern philosophy,” Rene Descartes’ ideas that animals are not conscious and have no interests or sense of well-being that humans need to be concerned with.

For more than 350 years, animals were believed to be incapable of thinking, and therefore incapable of “being.” Descartes labeled animals “automata” which means they lacked minds and emotions and were incapable of feeling sensations. Descartes considered compassion for animals worthy of ridicule.

Descartes, and generations of his followers, contended that when animals act as if they are suffering, it is no different than a malfunctioning machine. This philosophy gave carte blanche to the practice of vivisection, which takes living and fully conscious animals apart as if they were pocket watches. Vivisectors were encouraged to laugh as animals screamed and to make fun of the “sentimental” and “ignorant” people who protested their barbaric practices.

Descartes formulated a philosophy of mind/body dualism, similar to Greek and Asian thinkers before him. However, unlike earlier intellectuals, Descartes only granted minds to humans, designating animals as mere machines. “I think, therefore I am,” declared Descartes. However, in his system, animals were incapable of thought and therefore incapable of “being” in any meaningful way people ought to respect.

One prominent protester of Descartes’ rationale for animal cruelty was the Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire, who famously demanded, “You discover in the animal all the same organs of feeling that are in yourself. Answer me, mechanist, has nature arranged all the means of feeling in this animal so that it may not feel?”

Descartes’ ideological reign of terror over Western science began to crumble over the past several decades as scientists became uncomfortable with animal cruelty in laboratories and started to question “automata.” A new wave of academic philosophers, such as Tom Regan and Peter Singer, began poking holes in the Descartes doctrine in the 1970s in tandem with the birth of the modern animal rights movement. During this same time, studies of animals in their natural habitats led to an understanding that animals have more in common with humans than ever recognized before. This has all led to the culmination of a new paradigm embodied within the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, which thoroughly denounces Descartes and his philosophy.

Cats improve quality of life for senior citizens

Ed Boks and senior catI want to talk about senior cats. These lovable animals have many good years of love left – making them ideal pets for senior citizens.

According to the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society there are many health benefits for seniors who have a pet or two.  In fact, the Journal states there are many benefits for the seniors, the pets and society as a whole. Geriatric researchers found seniors with pets more active than seniors without pets and they score higher in their ability to carry out normal activities of daily living.  Many positive effects on physical well-being are identified, including a healthy ability to fend off isolation and loneliness.

The Journal report says that pet ownership has a statistically significant effect on the physical health of older people.  Further, the care-taking role involved in pet ownership may provide older people a sense of purpose and responsibility and encourages them to be less apathetic and more active in day-to-day activities.  In fact, researchers found that elderly people who lacked strong social support (family and friends) remained relatively emotionally healthy during life-crises compared with non-pet-owners placed in similar situations. The evidence demonstrates that pets provide real health benefits to the elderly.

10 health reasons why pets are great for seniors

1. Pets lower blood pressure: A study of health patients showed that people over 40 who own pets had lower blood pressure than people who did not have pets. Another study showed that talking to pets decreases blood pressure.

2. Fewer trips to the doctor: Seniors who own pets go to the doctor less than those who do not. In a study of 1,000 Medicare patients, even the most highly stressed pet owner in the study had 21 percent fewer physician’s contacts than non-pet owners.

3. Less depression: Studies show that seniors with pets do not become depressed as often as those without pets.

4. Easier to make friends: Seniors with pets meet more people and like to talk about their pets.

5. Seniors become more active: Seniors with pets are generally more active than those without pets.

6. Pets are friends: Most everyone, but especially seniors, will say that pets are their friends.

7. Pets ease loss: Older people who suffer the loss of a spouse and own a pet are less likely to experience deterioration in health following that stressful event.

8. Pets fight loneliness: You are less likely to be lonely with a feline friend around.

9. Taking better care of themselves: Seniors take good care of their pets and better care of themselves when they own a pet.

10. Sense of security: Pets help seniors to feel that someone they trust is always around.

If you are a senior citizen wanting to take advantage of all these health benefits please consider adopting one or two senior cats today.

Good news for volunteers by Ed Boks

I want to share some good news from an unlikely source with all animal shelter volunteers.  In June 2011, a U.S. Tax Court brought some much-needed clarity to deducting unreimbursed expenses incurred by volunteers helping IRS-recognized charities – like local animal shelters.

The case involved Jan Van Dusen, who appeared before a Tax Court judge and a team of IRS lawyers regarding a tax deduction for caring for 70 stray cats.

The court ruled Van Dusen could deduct $12,068 for expenses incurred while caring for cats for an IRS-approved charity, Fix Our Ferals (FOF). The deductions were for cat food, veterinarian bills, kitty litter, a portion of her utility bills and other items such as paper towels and garbage bags.

The decision paved the way for volunteers to deduct unreimbursed expenses that support a charitable organization’s mission, such as fostering homeless animals.

It also clarified rules for deducting unreimbursed charitable expenses of $250 or more, especially if they involve use of a home. The decision affects donors to charities and religious groups, but not political organizations.

Prior to this ruling, tax advisers often warned clients such deductions would be challenged by the IRS. The ruling informs the taxpayer how to successfully prepare for that challenge – with records of pertinent expenses and a letter from the charity acknowledging the gift.

Van Dusen, 59, is a former family law attorney living in Oakland, Calif. She lives alone in a 1,500-square-foot home in a modest neighborhood with seven cats of her own. As a volunteer for Fix Our Ferals, whose mission is to trap, neuter and care for stray cats, Van Dusen provided foster care to over 70 feral cats.

Van Dusen tried to take the deductions on her 2004 tax return, but the IRS considered them nondeductible personal expenses. In 2009, the case wound up in court. Van Dusen knew little about tax law but represented herself because she couldn’t afford an attorney.

She said her pretrial encounters with IRS agents were “intimidating,” and she felt that in court the IRS lawyers tried to portray her “as a crazy cat lady.” However, Judge Richard Morrison demonstrated considerable patience: “He had to go through all (my) receipts from Costco and ask questions like, ‘What were these paper towels used for?'”

In his 42-page decision, Judge Morrison agreed with many of her arguments. He allowed her to deduct most of some bills and half of others for care of the feral cats, ruling they were unreimbursed expenses incurred while helping a charitable group in its mission. He curtailed the total deduction somewhat because she didn’t have a valid letter from FOF acknowledging her volunteer work for expenses over $250.

There are an estimated 11 million volunteers nationwide who work with local shelters and rescue groups, and many of these volunteers spend up to $2,000 of their own money a year to help animals in need, with some spending up to $15,000 a year.

This was the first time the court had addressed these types of expenses, and this ruling set an important precedent for the many foster-care-giving volunteers in our community. Please check with your tax adviser on the impact this ruling may have on your volunteer efforts.