The Psychology of Animal Abuse

Late 2017, A Massachusetts woman faced charges after police say they found 19 dead animals at her home. Officers found dead lizards in cages in the bedroom of Amanda Vicente’s 13-year-old son .

Finches, cockatiels, and hamsters were also found at the home. Police say 17 living animals were at the residence, including a bull mastiff. They say many of the animals were “emaciated” and lacked food and water. This is an example of animal abuse or IATC (intentional acts of animal torture and cruelty). We see animal abuse in the headlines, and unfortunately around us as well, but why would people hurt animals? And why is it common? There are many different types of IATC, including individuals who do it as a religious ritual sacrifice, as an ‘artistic’ sacrifice ( killing animals in films), because they have psychological disorders (such as antisocial/psychopathic personality disorders and engage in deliberate acts of zoosadism), and/or (iv) because they have sexually paraphilic disorders (such as crush fetishism in which small animals are crushed for sexual pleasure). Additionally,in some circumstances, IATC is sometimes used to coerce, control and intimidate women and/or children to be silent about domestic abuse within the home.

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Although any animal torture is shocking, arguably the most disturbing type of IATC is that which occurs amongst those with antisocial personality disorders. While animal abuse seems spontaneous and there seems to be no thought behind it, there are characteristics that can show who does it. The dark triad is composed of three characteristics that are shown in people who abuse animals, rapists, and serial murderers. The three characteristics are machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy. For those who do not know the first word: Machiavellianism in psychology refers to a personality trait which sees a person so focused on their own interests they will manipulate, deceive, and exploit others to achieve their goals.Combined, the Dark Triad traits in another person close to you can be detrimental to your mental health.