What drives Animal Abuse?by Dr George Simon, PhDThere several different reasons why some people abuse animals. Research conducted by variousanimal protection agencies and interest groups places abusers into one of three categories:Unwitting abusers don’t set out to harm animals. They simply don’t realize that some of the thingsthey do are cruel. They might keep a pet dog on a short chain not realizing that the dog needs timeand space to move more freely. Or, they may have heard that swatting a pet on the snout with anewspaper is a way to discipline, not realizing that there are far more effective and humane ways.Immature abusers actually set out to hurt animals but lack the mental and emotional maturity torealized the nature and extent of harm they are doing — not only to the animal but also to their owncharacter development. A young child throwing rocks at a frog in a pond or deliberately scaring a catto watch its typical reaction might fall into this category.Serious intentional abusers actually derive satisfaction from hurting animals. From a psychologicalperspective, the reason is mainly aboutpower. For the most part, animals, especially smaller ordomesticated animals, can’t easily defend themselves and are vulnerable in the face of someonewho can inflict great pain on them. This makes the abuser feel powerful. Some abusers feel a lack ofpower in other areas of their lives and try to make up for it by wielding ruthless power over theweak. Others simply enjoy the feeling of dominance so much that they’re always looking for anopportunity to exercise it. Still others have such a feeling of superiority and entitlement that theyview the animal’s only purpose as being to serve their needs. Such is often the case when animalsare used for fighting contests (e.g., dog fights, cock fights, etc.) as a way to make money for and gainnotoriety for the owners and handlers.Animal abuse is a serious and fairly widespread problem. It is seen across many cultures, age groups,and sexes. If you know someone who is engaged in the serious, intentional abuse of an animal, thechances are that they need psychological help. What’s more, the reason many animals continue toendure abuse is because good people don’t take action. There are many organizations dedicated tothe humane treatment of animals. Groups such as the American Society for the Prevention ofCruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Humane Society work tirelessly to promote the passing of lawsto prevent animal abuse and to aid their enforcement. Most of these groups have telephonehotlines that you can call to report an instance of animal abuse.