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Seeking to end crimes against animals, group starts program

A Virginia animal advocacy group has put together a training program to try to suppress juvenile crime against animals.

The agency will take pets from its shelter and introduce them to the juveniles who have been convicted of some form of animal abuse. The goal is to teach the juveniles how to work with animals and provide not only care but empathy toward them.

More than 20 years ago in Virginia, a 16-year-old murdered two young boys. He wore a necklace with a cat's paw and collected animal bones. Animal activists say now that the teen's treatment of the animals should have given law enforcement a clue that he could commit violent acts toward people, as well. She said that when juveniles are prosecuted for animal crimes, there has been no program to teach them how to tend to animals. This course is designed to create change since there hasn't been any since the murders.

The program is expected to begin early next year, with the students coming from referrals from judges in the juvenile court. Parents or members of the school community also can recommend a participant.

Virginia Beach has been inundated with cases of adolescents committing crimes, an official said. Professionals have not known how to rehabilitate them. This program is a start, and participants will take part in supervised activities with the pets. Officials with the program said youngsters who hurt animals could hurt themselves or others, and it is important to reach children at a young age.

The agency's efforts are to be commended. Since they have made a link between animal cruelty and eventual adult crime, authorities must be hopeful that they can help to wipe out juvenile crime against animals and criminal acts that could follow.

Source: The Virginian-Pilot, "Va. Beach SPCA to fight juvenile animal cruelty," Kathy Adams, Dec. 1, 2012

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