There is a lack of research examining the criminogenic factors related to animal abuse perpetrated by adults, despite the high prevalence of this type of offending. A correlational study examining the factors related to two types of animal abuse proclivity was used. We found that childhood animal abuse, empathetic concern, and a proneness for human-directed aggression were significant correlates of direct forms of nonhuman animal abuse (i.e., the animal was perceived to be the provocateur). We also found that childhood animal abuse, personal distress (i.e., anxiety from interpersonal interactions), and empathetic concern were significant correlates of indirect forms of animal abuse (i.e., a person was the perceived provocateur, the animal an alternative outlet for aggression). These findings highlight targets for prevention and intervention programs and the importance of distinguishing between different forms of and motivations for animal abuse.
Emerging research regarding the psychological correlates of nonhuman animal abuse is warranted by the high prevalence of abuse. The few studies to examine factors related to animal abuse have found that those who commit such offenses commonly experience dysfunctional childhoods and high anxiety levels. Yet, no study has examined how attachment styles (by-products of maladaptive childhoods), social-anxiety, and animal abuse proclivity are inter-related. Therefore, this study assessed the association between attachment styles and social anxiety as indicators of animal abuse proclivity within an adult sample. It was found that an anxious attachment significantly correlated with direct proclivity (i.e., animal as the perceived provocateur) while the relationship between social anxiety and indirect animal abuse proclivity (i.e., animal as the outlet for aggression) was mediated by avoidant attachment. These findings emphasize the importance of exploring how interpersonal relationships influence our relationship with animals, to advance treatment and assessment of animal abusers.