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Cruelty to animals can indicate other problems, Rock Hill experts say

The incident late last month of a 6-week-old black Lab mix named Brody being shot 18 times with a BB gun in Rock Hill sparked a lot of anger and outrage, but it also left many residents asking the question: “Who would do something like that to an animal?”

Police allege Brody was shot and stabbed by two teenagers who later were arrested and charged with cruelty to animals. The puppy recovered from the incident and has been adopted by a Rock Hill woman and her 10-year-old daughter.

Sociologists and psychologists argue a person who finds pleasure in harming an animal are showing signs of a deeper problem.

Winthrop University psychology professor Sarah Reiland says hurting animals increases the probability a person will also harm humans, though there isn’t a typical pattern of escalation in animal abusers, she said.

“People who abuse animals often display behaviors that reflect aggression, impulsivity, a lack of empathy and disregard for laws and social norms,” Reiland said. “They often manipulate or harm others while showing no remorse or guilt at the suffering they cause.”

A 2001-2004 study by the Chicago Police Department revealed a tendency for offenders charged with crimes against animals to commit violent offenses toward humans, according to the Humane Society. The study found 65 percent of individuals arrested in animal crimes cases had previously been arrested over violence against another person.

Veterinarian and owner of Rock Hill Animal Hospital Dr. Mike Ferguson said it’s a red flag for problems down the road. “There is research linking pet neglect to human abuse,” Ferguson said.

The incidents with animals that upset veterinarians the most are ones that involve neglect, he said. In the case of Brody, Ferguson said, it’s extremely tragic for the puppy and for the family.

“If you have a pet, you have got to take care of it with food and water,” Ferguson said. “Oftentimes people rescue a pet but are unable to take care of the animal.”

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