It's the Law, Part 3—Intentional Abuse and Torture

by Felicia Langel, DVM

A video posted on Facebook showing a person throwing scalding water on a cat went viral February 2, 2016. It triggered worldwide outrage. Now it has led to the arrest of a Chicago teenager. Leon Teague, 18, was charged with a felony count of animal torture and a misdemeanor count of depicting animal cruelty, according to the Chicago Police Department. Teague posted video to Facebook on Tuesday night showing him luring a cat onto his porch and throwing boiling water at it, police said in a statement. "The cat ... ran from one end of the porch to the other screaming in pain," the police report reads, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Niraj Chokji, The Washington Post, Feb. 6, 2016

According to follow-up reports from the Chicago Tribune, the cat, now named Driver, is undergoing extensive veterinary treatment. The friendly cat is expected to recover and will ultimately be made available for adoption.

The link between animal cruelty and criminal violence has been documented. Of people charged with cruelty to animals, approximately 70% were known by police for other violent behavior. Acts of animal cruelty have been associated with a variety of crimes, including violence against people, property crimes, and drug offenses.

Animal abuse is a predictor of domestic violence and perpetuates the cycle of violence in households. For example, threats or actual violence against the family pet are used by batterers to psychologically control and coerce family members. Children subjected to such violence may attempt to regain control by acting out the animal abuse they have witnessed. Children who abuse animals are at increased risk of hurting themselves or others and are more likely to grow into violent adults.

In a study of media-reported animal cruelty cases conducted by pet-abuse.com, approximately 62% involved dogs, 15% involved cats, and 23% involved other animals, including horses and livestock. Due to weak protections for livestock under state cruelty laws, few cases of abuse are reported or prosecuted.

States vary in their animal cruelty regulations. According to Maryland Code Criminal Law Title 10, Subtitle 6, Crimes Relating to Animals, Section 10-606, a person may not intentionally mutilate, torture, cruelly beat, or cruelly kill an animal. Violation of this section is a felony punishable by up to 3 years in prison, a fine not exceeding $5,000, or both. The court may order a convicted defendant to participate in and pay for psychological counseling and may prohibit a defendant from owning, possessing, or residing with an animal.

If you see or suspect animal neglect or another form of cruelty, report it to Frederick County Animal Control (301-600-1544 or 301-600-2558 after hours) or dial 911. You may choose to report animal cruelty anonymously, though doing so may hinder the investigation. You may also submit complaints related to animal cruelty online: http://www.frederickcountymd.gov/requesttracker.aspx.

Felicia Langel, DVM, is Lieutenant Colonel, US Army Veterinary Corps, and secretary of Frederick County's Companion Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.