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Humane Society CEO: ‘Sadly Unsurprised’ Accused Florida School Shooter Abused Animals

Dog lover and outdoorsman, John Marshall is a veteran reporter who has worked for The Associated Press and other major news outlets.

The head of the Humane Society of The United States notes the relationship between violence and animal cruelty. (Photo provided by HSUS).

The head of the Humane Society of The United States notes the relationship between violence and animal cruelty. (Photo provided by HSUS).

Accused School Shooter Had History of Abusing Animals

The head of the Humane Society of the United States say she’s “sadly unsurprised” over reports that the teen who opened fire in a deadly rampage at a Florida high school earlier this month also reportedly had a history of cruelty towards animals.

As more information comes out about the past of 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz -- the man police say killed 17 and wounded more than a dozen others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 -- residents of the Parkland, Fla. neighborhood where the troubled teen lived are relaying stories of a history of animal abuse.

HSUS: Mass Shooters Also Known to Kill Animals

“This pattern of violence is common and well-documented — time and again we hear that individuals responsible for mass shootings have also targeted animals as their victims,” acting President and CEO of HSUS, Kitty Block, wrote in the society’s blog.

Block was referring to media reports that Cruz tortured or killed animals, including an article in The Washington Post where a former schoolmate of Cruz, 17-year-old Dakota Mutchler, told the newspaper that Cruz had posted on Instagram about guns and killing animals.

The Post also spoke to a number of neighbors who cited Cruz’s cruelty towards animals, including one neighbor recalling how the teen had tried to kill a squirrel and feed it to his dog, while another neighbor recounted Cruz wielding a stick and trying to killed bunnies inside a rabbit burrow.

HSUS Notes Connection Between Animal Abuse and Violence

Block writes in the HSUS blog that though ‘“many have long appreciated the important relationship between animal abuse and interpersonal violence,” some have not made the connection.

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The HSUS, which is the nation's largest animal protection organization, offers training to police agencies across the country on investigating and prosecuting animal abuse cases. HSUS courses include discussions around why a child might abuse animals, and how animal crimes are related to other felonies, Block said.

The group People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA for short, also reports a connection between cruelty towards animals and violence. PETA's senior director of cruelty casework, Moira Colley, said it came as "no surprise" that Cruz had been connected to animal cruelty.

"The FBI has identified cruelty to animals as a warning sign of more violence to come, and many school shooters and serial killers have a history of abusing animals," Colley said in a statement.

Congress Urged to Pass Federal Anti-Cruelty Laws

Meanwhile, in light of the revelations about Cruz and reports of his cruelty towards animals, Block and the HSUS are urging lawmakers to work on strengthening anti-cruelty laws, including working to pass two bills being considered at the federal level.

One of those measures -- The Pet and Women Safety Act -- would protect domestic violence victims and their pets by expanding domestic violence protections to include pets. The second measure -- The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act -- would make it a federal crime to commit malicious cruelty to an animal on federal property or in interstate commerce.

"Simply put, animal cruelty is an indicator of social pathology," Block said. "Congress should act now to pass these bills without further delay, so we can help protect both animals and humans from needless violence."

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