Kids Hurting Animals

As mental-health and law-enforcement experts well know, cruelty to animals and violence against humans are inextricably linked. Many educators are aware that serial killers and school shooters—including alleged killers Salvador Ramos, Payton Gendron, Nikolas Cruz, and Ethan Crumbley—tend to have a history of cruelty to animals, and Sandy Hook Promise has cruelty to animals on its “10 Critical Warning Signs of Violence” list.

Forty-three percent of perpetrators of schoolyard massacres commit acts of cruelty to animals first. Educators can help prevent future tragedies by including kindness to animals in the curriculum. Amid the current epidemic of youth violence, PETA urges everyone to report every act of cruelty against animals and calls on authorities to take each animal abuse claim seriously—for the sake of the animal victims and to help prevent future harm. Lives may depend on it.


Select your state or province to view its laws that pertain to teaching about kindness to animals as well as its incidents of youth violence against animals.

Young people who abuse animals often go on to commit acts of violence against humans. Animals have often been targets of aggression prior to school shootings.

Many states and provinces have enacted laws mandating instruction in kindness, compassion, and justice. By vigorously enforcing these laws, we can foster children’s empathy for animals and prevent future acts of violence.

Latest Cases

March 2024/Brentwood, New York: A juvenile was reportedly charged with cruelty to animals after they were allegedly seen in a social media video violently beating a cat with a metal bar outside Brentwood High School. In the video, an onlooker apparently laughs as the cat cries out in pain. The feline reportedly sustained traumatic injuries in the barbaric attack.
February 2024/Dubuque, Iowa: Two teens were reportedly seen beating an opossum to death in a video posted on Snapchat. The video allegedly shows both juveniles repeatedly striking the animal with metal folding chairs and one of them maneuvering a chair like a guillotine at one point. One of the individuals was reportedly charged with killing the animal.
January 2024/Sussex, Wisconsin: A teen allegedly suffocated a Chihuahua named Batman with a plastic bag and stabbed him in the chest with scissors, reportedly while babysitting a 4-year-old child at the Waukesha County home where he lived with his guardians. The teen apparently admitted to police that she “just wanted the dog to leave her alone” and that she “lashes out” when angry.

PETA keeps an updated list of reported incidents in which young people commit acts of cruelty to animals. Many acts of cruelty go unreported. This resource is meant to illustrate how prevalent the problem is and provide educators with tools to teach students what it means to have compassion for all sentient beings. If you aren’t an educator, please share this page with educators you know and inform them about TeachKind—PETA’s humane education division—and our empathy-building educational resources.

What You Can Do

This may seem like an overwhelming problem, but you can make an impact by taking violence-prevention steps right now. To get started, download our free humane education guide today.

Contact TeachKind if you have any questions.

“Exposure to animal cruelty can have a significant impact on the developing child, including promoting desensitization and decreasing empathy … and leading to the imitation of abusive behaviors.”

—Dr. Barbara Boat, Director of the Program on Childhood Trauma and Maltreatment at the University of Cincinnati