Jeffrey Dahmer. Ted Bundy. The Boston Strangler. Names that will be forever etched in the annals of violent crime.
Before they started killing people, they started killing people’s pets.
The link between animal cruelty and violent crime is the subject of a conference today and Saturday in Tempe, where experts from across the United States will teach Valley police officers and social workers how to stop the cycle.
"The major point is, the people who abuse children, spouses and the elderly — abuse animals," said Ken Shapiro, executive director of Society and Friends Forum in Maryland and keynote speaker at the event.
Police can use animal cruelty as an indicator of other crimes, said Christian Risley-Curtiss, an Arizona State University associate professor who helped organize the event.
"It could be a clue to look at the family," she said.
For example, abused children tend to come from families where certain groups of people and animals are seen as inferior, she said. The children learn to accept that and act it out.
"Animal cruelty becomes embedded in a tense family situation," Shapiro said. "Father abuses child, child abuses dog, dog bites family. It’s a power play for control."
The conference’s goal is to open communication between agencies such as Child Protective Services, the Arizona Humane Society, the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, police departments and county prosecutors.
Shapiro said some states mandate rehabilitation of animal abusers.
Enrique Chitica, a Phoenix man convicted of beating a kitten to death with a shovel, was sentenced to anger management in addition to jail time and fines, according to deputy Maricopa County attorney Tony Church.
Church, the liaison between police and the county attorney’s office in animal cruelty cases, said he would like to see more therapy handed down in sentencing.
"It should be something imposed in in every cruelty case," he said. "If someone is being cruel to an animal, they lack self-restraint of keeping anger impulses in control."
The conference is at ASU’s West Hall in Tempe and at the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors auditorium in Phoenix. Admission is open to the public and costs $75. For information, call (480) 965-6076 or visit http://ssw.asu.edu/news.html.