The Link in the News

  The National Link Coalition regularly follows incidents reported in newspaper and TV media that vividly depict how animal abuse is often an indicator or predictor of other crimes, and is often the first incident that attracts the attention of law enforcement and social services authorities. If you come across Link cases please let us know. Here are a few cases that represent what The Link is about:


Reading the Signs: When Will We Ever Learn?

Philosophers and researchers have long argued that acts of cruelty to animals committed in childhood and adolescence are often dangerous warning signs, predictors of potential future interpersonal violence. Occasionally a spectacular case crystallizes this concept – which we at the National Link Coalition call The Link between animal abuse and human violence – and brings it to the forefront of public as well as professional attention.

Such is the case in Parkland, Fla., where the 19-year-old expelled student accused of gunning down 17 people on Valentine’s Day, 2018 at his former high school reportedly had a history of bragging about killing animals, and was also abusive to his girlfriend.

Law enforcement officials said that Nikolas Cruz, 19, posted highly disturbing material on social media before the shooting rampage. Multiple news media reported that an Instagram account that appeared to belong to Cruz included a disturbing bloodied corpse of a dead frog as well as photos of guns and rounds considered to be his arsenal. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said Cruz had posted troubling photos and videos on social media. “We saw a pic where he took a chameleon and he splattered the chameleon,” Israel said. “Things like this, that’s not normal behavior.”

The etiology of interpersonal violence is always complex, and this case is no exception. Preliminary media reports also indicate that Cruz had a history of being bullied, had experienced the deaths of both parents, was aggressive, and had undergone mental health treatment. It is far too simplistic to say that “animal abuse always leads to human violence,” but the evidence is quite clear that animal cruelty – especially repeated, remorseless, boastful incidents — must be recognized as a significant warning sign to be taken seriously.

While the immediate media attention is focused on what the FBI knew about his alleged desire to be a “professional school shooter,” what school authorities knew and did about disturbing reports that they perceived as threats, and how a youth with a history of such alarming behavior over the years was able to legally purchase an AR-15 assault rifle, the allegations of animal abuse were also beginning to emerge.

As of this writing, what we believe is known is as follows:  After the adoptive parents of Cruz and his brother died, another family took the two boys in. That family has said they saw signs of depression after the mother died in November, 2017 but nothing indicating this potential level of violence. The family said they were aware that he had had disciplinary problems at his former school and that there were some indications that he had been bullied.

The FBI had been alerted in September, 2017 when someone named Nikolas Cruz posted to a Mississippi bail bondsman’s YouTube video a warning saying, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”  The FBI could not determine if this was the same person as the teen accused in the school rampage.

Concerned school officials also emailed faculty to be on the alert for his behavior and to not allow him on campus with a backpack. He was expelled from the school in his junior year for disciplinary reasons including outbursts in the classroom and having ammunition in his backpack, according to school authorities. One student said that Cruz had been expelled after a fight with his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend, and that Cruz had been abusive to his girlfriend. Students said he had an obsession with weapons, always had guns and knives with him and predicted that if anyone would ever shoot up the school, it would be him.

Another student said that Cruz had been kicked out of two private schools, had been held back twice, and wanted to join the military. After being expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School he was reportedly re-enrolled at a school for at-risk youths where he was said to be working on his GED.

The New York Times reported that Cruz had been obsessed with a girl at the school to the point of stalking her. “In the hours after the shooting, people who knew Mr. Cruz described him as a ‘troubled kid’ who enjoyed showing off his firearms, bragging about killing animals, and whose mother would resort to calling the police to have them come to their home to try to talk some sense into him,” the Times reported.  Cruz reportedly stayed to himself and had few friends “but struck fear in some students with erratic behavior and an affinity for violence.”

The mother of a student told the Times that she learned from her daughter’s friends that Cruz “was known as always mentally ill and would kill animals.”

The South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that another student said Cruz had talked about shooting lizards, squirrels and frogs. Former neighbors said they had seen him shooting at a neighbor’s chickens, poking at a rabbit hole with a stick and setting his family’s dog on another neighbor’s piglets.

“Like we did not expect this!” said John Thompson, Deputy Executive Director/COO of the National Sheriffs’ Association and a member of the National Link Coalition’s Steering Committee. “It is my understanding he was also on a watch list but I guess no one was watching!  Law enforcement better wake up and realize this LINK is real and a VERY powerful tool for them!”

“We missed the signs,” Broward Mayor Beam Furr, a former teacher himself, told the Miami Herald. “We should have seen some of the signs.”



Investigators in Massachusetts and Tennessee are looking into reports that a 15-year-old student who allegedly raped and murdered his high school math teacher previously got thrills from setting a pet cat on fire. Philip Chism has been charged with attacking Colleen Ritzer, 24, with a box cutter in a bathroom at a Danvers, Mass. high school October 22, 2013, after she apparently asked him to stay after school. Police say he slashed her throat, raped her twice including once with a tree branch, stole her credit cards, cellphone and driver’s license, wheeled her body out of the school in a recycling bin, and dumped her corpse in a sexuallypositioned manner in the woods behind the athletic fields. (March 2014)

Police in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico arrested Jesus Mendoza Hernandez, 21, and Edgar Lujan Guevara, 31, on charges related to the murders of seven family members over a disputed bet at a dogfight. Prosecutors said the two took money, stole three vehicles, and killed two men, three women, and two children who were allegedly gagged, bound and stabbed to death over a disputed $115 bet. A two-month-old baby was spared, Animal People reported. (January 2014)

Police in Chandler, Ariz. are asking whether four young boys who were charged with animal cruelty are heading down a path that will lead them to interpersonal violence. The four boys, all between the ages of 7 and 12, were observed on video surveillance at a trailer park playground pushing a dog down a slide into a kitten, then hitting the kitten with a soccer ball, kicking it repeatedly, throwing it to the ground and tossing it into a pool. The kitten eventually died from its injuries and the boys were taken to juvenile detention on felony animal cruelty charges. “The question is will this type of behavior then escalate to would they do this to another child or as they get older would they do this to adults?” police Sgt. Joe Favazzo asked KTVK-TV. (November 2013)


A Hawthorne, Calif. man was charged with animal cruelty after allegedly deliberately running over a pet Chihuahua belonging to his estranged wife and children in what the wife believes was retaliation for her not signing over their house to him in a divorce settlement.  The Daily Breeze reported that Michael David Parker, 45, was arrested after surveillance video was found reportedly showing Parker driving into an alley, presumably taking the dog out of the car’s trunk, backing up, then rapidly accelerating and running over “Cow Cow.” As the dog lay bleeding and convulsing  in the alley, the car drove away. The couple’s other dog, “Lucky,” was reportedly missing. Parker’s estranged wife, Olga, told reporters, “If someone would do that to a dog… what would he do to my kids?” (January 2014)

A Columbia, Mo. man who allegedly broke into his girlfriend’s residence and killed one of her cats was arrested and charged with burglary, animal abuse, harassment and property damage. The Columbia Daily Tribune reported that Matthew G. Greaver, 23, was also accused in separate cases of harassing the woman after their relationship had ended and breaking a security camera at her residence. Prosecutors said Greaver went into her residence and assaulted her cat, causing internal injuries, and tried to drown another cat. One month earlier one of her cats that he was caring for was found dead when she returned from out of town. The harassment charge stems from unwanted social media communication she received in November after she tried to end their relationship. Greaver allegedly threatened to kill himself and distribute nude pictures of her if she did not respond to him. (January 2014)

A Birmingham, Ala. lawyer convicted of harassment for texting his estranged wife a photo of the family’s dog with its throat slashed, and leaving a voicemail saying, “Your day is coming, girl,” has also been charged with animal cruelty. (Nov. 2012)

A Bloomington, Ill. man was charged with aggravated assault, illegal possession of a firearm, domestic battery, and animal cruelty for allegedly firing shots at his girlfriend during a domestic dispute and for starving or mistreating dozens of dead and malnourished dogs and cats. Witnesses described rooms of decaying animals in his home and barn, including 60 dead cats. (Nov. 2012)

An Everett, Wash. man pleaded guilty to animal cruelty and domestic violence and was sentenced to six months in jail for killing a parrot that his ex-girlfriend had had for 18 years, by stabbing it with a serving fork. The judge called the crime “depraved” and “hideous and barbaric.” (Nov. 2012)

A New Cumberland, W. Va. man accepted a plea bargain on April 4 and will spend 10-45 years in prison for torturing and killing 29 dogs in a domestic violence intimidation scheme. A witness said he told the woman the only way she was leaving the house was “in a body bag” and that on the day of the arrest he had forced her to hold a puppy as he bored an electric drill into its head. (April 2012)


A Redwood City, Calif. man has been charged with felony animal cruelty and child endangerment in the torture and death of “Lucky,” a 4-month-old puppy, much of which reportedly took place in front of his 4-year-old daughter. San Mateo County prosecutors told the San Francisco Examiner that Alan Velete, 31, routinely tortured the pup over the course of a month by punching and kicking it, spraying household cleaner in its eyes, and feeding it his own psychiatric prescription medication, before suffocating it. Velete was also on probation for assault with a deadly weapons charges from 2011. (January 2014)

A Palm Bay, Fla. man was charged with cruelty to animals and having sexual acts with animals after apparently being caught having sex with a female German shepherd named “Angel” on an in-home surveillance camera set up because of suspicions of child abuse. Investigators said Joshua Lee Werbicki, 22, and the dog had had sex six times in the past year. A woman living in the home told police that there had been concerns that a child in the home may have been abused. Police are investigating the suspected child abuse, Florida Today reported.  (January 2014)

A Corning, N.Y. woman who said she was tired of her dog’s defecating in the house was charged with gruesomely slitting the pit bull’s throat and stabbing it repeatedly while her children were at home. (Sept. 2012)

Child crisis detectives arrested a Tulsa, Okla., man on complaints of manufacturing child pornography and “crimes against nature” for allegedly engaging in sex acts with dogs.  Investigators uncovered 17,000 pornographic images, several thousand of which appeared to be child pornography and of Lewis having sex with dogs. (Sept. 2012)

A Fayette County, Tenn., couple charged with hoarding 168 animals and 25 dead birds in a home that investigators described as a “house of horrors” were charged with aggravated child abuse for subjecting two teenagers to a house filled with animal feces, urine, debris, and trash. The charges came after police received a tip about deplorable conditions in the home, where the dogs, cats, rodents, and dead birds were removed in a raid. (September, 2012)

Liberty County, Tex. authorities investigating a report of suspected animal cruelty discovered a baby with roaches crawling over her head and out of her diaper in a filthy home filled with festering trash, feces and the stench of decay. Authorities also found a dead horse and dozens of severely malnourished dogs on the property where the one-year-old child, whose existence did not appear to be known to the outside world, lived. (August, 2012)



A 12-year-old girl was so upset about her father’s torturing her cat that she secretly videotaped the incident — and showed it in a court hearing for her mother’s domestic violence restraining order against him. (March 2013)

Authorities arrested a Rose, Okla. man on charges of beating a woman and a child with a whip and broom handle and forcing the girl to watch as he decapitated a puppy with an axe, and threatening to beat the woman with a braided whip if she did not beat the girl. (July 2012)


A Riverside County, Calif. woman charged with animal cruelty after a dozen emaciated horses were seized from her property is also charged with with felony abuse on an elderly person. The woman’s 86-year-old mother was covered in urine and feces and had bleeding bedsores, legs locked in a bent position, dehydration, extensive sunburn, and feces under her fingernails. (Oct. 2012)

A San Diego-area caregiver seen allegedly abusing a non-verbal man with severe autism hundreds of times had been tried for murder in the death of an infant under his care, and for felony animal neglect when 150 dogs were taken from his property. (Sept. 2012)

Investigators responding to a complaint about 25 scrawny dogs found a dozen elderly and mentally disabled men and women who had been beaten, malnourished, had had their Social Security checks stolen, and  living in squalid conditions in an unlicensed group home. Five members of a San Jose, Calif. family were charged with elder abuse and animal neglect. (August 2012)

A Jacksonville, Fla. woman charged with brutally slashing a dog10 times with a sword for chewing through a mattress cover was later charged with aggravated elder abuse and battery of an 83-year-old woman residing in the assisted living facility where she worked. (July 2012)


An Alton, Ill. man listed on the Illinois state registry of child sex offenders was charged with three felony counts of sexual conduct with an animal for allegedly having sex on three occasions with a Rottweiler puppy named Lucy. The Madison County Attorney’s Office charged Terry Wayne Davis, 43, in a case that Police Chief Jake Simmons said was treated as a sexual assault case. “It is very troubling and deplorable for somebody to do this to an animal,” Simmons told the Alton Telegraph. Bail was set at $50,000 for Davis, who was placed on the sex registry 10 years ago for forcing a 16-year-old to have sex with him. “The Alton Police Department takes all sex offenses seriously,” said Simmons. “Hopefully we were able to stop Davis before his behavior escalated and he went after, or hurt, anyone else.” (November 2013)

Police in suburban Chicago charged a man with animal cruelty for allegedly sexually abusing his pet peacock in conjunction with charges of indecent solicitation of a child. (May 2013)

A Greensboro, N.C. man was charged with first-degree rape of a child, “crimes against nature,” taking indecent liberties with children, and sexual exploitation of a minor for allegedly having sex with a child and a dog. (May 2013)

Child crisis detectives arrested a Tulsa, Okla., man on complaints of manufacturing child pornography and “crimes against nature” for allegedly engaging in sex acts with dogs. Investigators uncovered 17,000 pornographic images, several thousand of which appeared to be child pornography and of Lewis having sex with dogs. (Sept. 2012)

In a case that the prosecutor called “outright depravity,” a Moorestown, N.J. police officer and his former girlfriend were convicted on 22 counts for repeatedly sexually assaulting three girls and a boy over an eight-year period and videotaping the attacks. Investigators also found videos of the policeman engaged in sex with calves on a farm. (April 2012)