Childhood animal cruelty, bestiality, and the link to adult interpersonal violence

Brian Holoyda, William Newman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Animal cruelty has been a concern of the legal and psychiatric communities for many years. Beginning in the early 1800s, state legislatures in the United States established laws to protect the basic safety and security of animals in their jurisdictions. Legislatures have differed in opinion on the animals to receive protection under the law and have instituted differing penalties for infractions of anti-cruelty measures. In the 1960s, the psychiatric community took notice of childhood animal cruelty as a potential risk factor for violent acts against humans. Since that time there has been increasing evidence that children who engage in animal cruelty may be at increased risk of interpersonal offenses in adulthood. Less is known about children and adults who engage in bestiality and the potential risk that these individuals may pose for interpersonal sexual or nonsexual violent acts. We review the legal status of animal cruelty in the United States, summarize the history of psychiatric interest in and research of animal cruelty, describe current knowledge regarding the link between animal cruelty and violence, and propose a novel classification scheme for individuals who engage in bestiality to assist forensic psychiatric examiners in determining the risk that such behavior poses for future interpersonal offending.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInternational Journal of Law and Psychiatry
StateAccepted/In press - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Animal cruelty
  • Bestiality
  • Sexual violence
  • Violence
  • Violence risk assessment
  • Zoophilia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law


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