Mr. Speaker, this speech has not been given by anyone else. I have been making it up to refute some of the invalid points the opposition has made with respect to the bill.
I will speak to an aspect of Bill C-15B which has not been the subject of recent discussion and has not been given enough emphasis in terms of the importance of the legislation. While taking animal cruelty offences more seriously would be entirely consistent with society's moral condemnation of the abuse and neglect of animals, an even greater societal interest would be served by the provisions of Bill C-15B. There is increasing scientific evidence of a link between animal cruelty and subsequent violent offences against humans, particularly in the context of domestic violence. A number of studies in the United States have clearly shown the link. Recent Canadian studies have also put out interesting findings.
Last year a study was conducted of 100 women entering two shelters for abused women and children in Calgary. Some 65% of the participants were either pet owners or had been pet owners in the last 12 months. More than half who owned pets said their abusers had threatened to kill or hurt or had killed or hurt their pets. More than 25% of the pet owning participants said they delayed their decision to seek shelter from violence for themselves and their children because they feared for the safety of the animals they left behind.
One American study has noted that while most animal abusers will not commit sensational murders, serial killers almost invariably have histories of animal abuse earlier in their lives. Many notorious serial killers including Albert DeSalvo, the Boston strangler, have had histories of animal abuse that started in their youth. There is increasing evidence of a link between animal abuse early in life and subsequent violence against humans. As one report noted, the literature suggests an association between a pattern of cruelty to animals in childhood or adolescence and a pattern of dangerous and recurrent aggression against people at a later age.
One of the first formal studies in this area examined the life histories of 84 prison inmates in the United States. The research found that 75% of those charged with violent crimes had an early record of cruelty to animals, fire setting and bedwetting. A later study of psychiatric patients who repeatedly tortured dogs and cats found that all of them had high levels of aggression toward people and had also been victims of brutal parental punishment as children.
The link between animal cruelty and the abuse or neglect of children has been examined in other studies as well. In one study of 57 families being treated by local child welfare authorities because of incidents of child abuse, pets had been abused in 88% of the families in which children had been physically abused. In two-thirds of the cases the abusive parent had injured or killed the family pet. In the remaining one-third of cases it was the children who had abused the pet. In describing animal abuse as symptomatic of family dysfunction, one study notes that the research strongly suggests animal abuse is not the result of some personality flaw in the abuser but a symptom of a deeply disturbed family.
Insight into the dynamics of animal cruelty offences can be gained from research that examines the reasons given by offenders for their actions. In examining violent offenders with a history of animal abuse, researchers have found that some offenders resort to cruelty to control the animal's behaviour. Others have hurt or killed an animal to retaliate for an action by the animal such as barking. A third motivation is prejudice toward specific types of animals, most commonly cats.
I hope people understand that there are ramifications of the bill in terms of determining that cruelty to animals is an offence of violence. It would be of benefit to our society to realize the seriousness of it in that respect.