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J. Pat Carter/AP
Thomas Shad poses with his new cat, Miss Prissy.

Alleged Serial Cat Killer Caught, But Why Did He Do It?

June 15, 2009 03:00 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
The case of a South Florida teenager suspected of mutilating and killing cats highlights the psychology behind animal abuse, and the deep bonds between pets and their owners.

18-Year Old Arrested

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Over the last month, dozens of dead cats have surfaced in the South Florida neighborhoods of Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay. Some cats had been stripped of fur or skin, and others "appeared to have been cut with a sharp, straight instrument," police told the Associated Press.

Suspect Tyler Hayes Weinman, age 18, has been charged with 19 counts of animal cruelty, among other related charges. According to the AP, Weinman's attorney, David W. Macey, wrote in an e-mail that his client is not guilty. "Tyler welcomes his day in court, so that he will be completely vindicated," Macey said.

Residents of the South Florida communities have made impassioned pleas for justice in the past few weeks, offering a reward of more than $12,000 for information about the case, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Meanwhile, psychologists and criminologists have discussed "how animal torture at times can lead to serious crimes against humans."

Background: Link between cruelty to animals and cruelty to people

Don Robinson, a professor who teaches animal rights consciousness and experimentation at Canada's St. Thomas University, agrees that people who abuse animals are likely to abuse people as well. "[P]eople who are cruel to animals are cruel to people throughout their lives," Robinson told The Daily Gleaner. Robinson challenges the notion of "animals as property," as does Carmen Gill, director of a family violence center in Fredericton. Gill told The Daily Gleaner that "some abusers use animals as a way to control their spouse," and that pets "are part of the domestic violence circle."

Opinion & Analysis: Debating punishment for animal abuse

Tracy Snethen of Happy Home Animal Sanctuary wrote a 2008 editorial questioning the punishment handed to convicted animal abusers. "Though these crimes seem incredibly heinous and unbelievable, the punishment for them is nothing more than a misdemeanor," Snethen wrote. If a human was harmed, however, "the perpetrator would never see their freedom again."

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Related Topic: Animal abuse at large-scale farms

Animal abuse is "a practice that's alive and well in the world of large-scale, corporate animal operations," according to The Daily Republic. The animal rights group PETA sent undercover investigators to a pig farm in Iowa to document atrocities on tape last September. The video showed workers discussing "at length their abusive practices," including one worker who said the pigs "deserve to be hurt ... Take out your frustrations on them," The Daily Republic reported. 
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