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Zoosadism is pleasure (sometimes sexual pleasure) derived from cruelty to animals. Zoosadism is part of the Macdonald triad, a set of three behaviors that are a precursor to sociopathic behavior.[1] The term was coined by Ernest Borneman.


Schedel-Stupperich (2001) state that some horse-ripping incidences have a sexual connection, and in general, the link between sadistic sexual acts with animals and sadistic practices with humans or lust murders has been heavily researched. Some murderers tortured animals in their childhood, with some of them also practicing bestiality. Ressler et al. (1988) found that 36% of sexual murderers described themselves as having abused animals during childhood, with 46% of them reporting that they had abused animals during adolescence, and (1986) that eight of their sample of thirty-six sexual murderers showed an interest in zoosexual acts.

In 1971, American researchers profiled the typical animal harmer as being a nine-and-a-half-year-old boy, with an I.Q. of 91 and a history of gross parental abuse. The UK "Young Abusers Project" sees children as young as five who have a record of sexual offences or "extremely" violent behavior. Of such people, child psychiatrist Dr Eileen Vizard, commented:

"They stomp on small hamsters or mice. Squeeze them or burst them, set fire to their fur. Gratuitous cruelty for which there can be no justification."[2]

Dr Vizard commented:

"…cruelty to animals, if accompanied by a sexual interest in animals, is a high-risk indicator of a future sex offender."[2]

Studies have shown that individuals who enjoy or are willing to inflict harm on animals are more likely to do so to humans. One of the known warning signs of certain psychopathologies, including antisocial personality disorder, is a history of torturing pets and small animals. According to the New York Times:

"the FBI has found that a history of cruelty to animals is one of the traits that regularly appear in its computer records of serial rapists and murderers, and the standard diagnostic and treatment manual for psychiatric and emotional disorders lists cruelty to animals as a diagnostic criterion for conduct disorders."[3]

Alan R. Felthous reported in his paper "Aggression Against Cats, Dogs, and People" (1980) that

"A survey of psychiatric patients who had repeatedly tortured dogs and cats found all of them had high levels of aggression toward people as well, including one patient who had murdered a boy."[4]

This is a commonly reproduced finding, and for this reason, violence (including sexually oriented violence) toward animals is considered a serious warning sign of potential serious violence towards humans.

Legal status[edit]

In the United States, since 2010, it has been a federal offense to create or distribute "obscene" depictions of "living non-human mammals, birds, reptiles, or amphibians ... subjected to serious bodily injury".[5] This statute replaced an overly broad 1999 statute[6] which was found unconstitutional in United States v. Stevens.


Zoosadism towards insects is also exhibited by some. The classic example of this subvariety of "schoolyard viciousness" is the child who pulls off a fly's wings. The Roman writer Plutarch, in his Parallel Lives, claims that the Emperor Domitian amused himself by catching flies and impaling them with needles.

Notable zoosadists[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ J. M. MacDonald (1963). "The Threat to Kill". American Journal of Psychiatry 120 (2): 125–130. 
  2. ^ a b "The chain of cruelty". BBC News. 9 May 2000. 
  3. ^ Goleman, Daniel (7 August 1991). "Child's Love of Cruelty May Hint at the Future Killer". New York Times. 
  4. ^ Felthous, Alan R. (1980). "Aggression Against Cats, Dogs, and People". Child Psychiatry and Human Development (10): 169–177. 
  5. ^ Robson, Ruthann (2010-12-14) Animal Porn - Criminalized by Federal Law Again, Constitutional Law Prof Blog
  6. ^ US Code TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 3 > § 48
  7. ^ Cowan, Rosie (11 August 2005). "Childhood cruelty to animals may signal violence in future". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 20 April 2010. 
  8. ^ CrimeLibrary.com/Serial Killers/Truly Weird & Shocking/Richard Trenton Chase: The Vampire of Sacramento

External links[edit]