Authorities are searching for a drive-by shooter who guns down cows as they calmly munch grass in the rolling pastureland 50 miles north of San Francisco. Since February, five cows have been found dead in two counties, shot with small-caliber bullets designed to inflict prolonged pain and suffering, reports the Los Angeles Times. Nationwide, an increasing number of animal cruelty cases are being reported outside city limits: Horses, cows, goats, and other farm animals are being killed, often by angry, reckless youths, perhaps acting on dares.
There are no statistics on such crimes. Among anecdotal reports: Two Texas college students were indicted last fall for slashing a horse’s neck before stabbing it in the heart with a broken golf club handle. In Pennsylvania, three joy-riding men killed a pony named Ted E. Bear that belonged to a 4-year-old boy. Although 43 states have passed felony animal cruelty laws, they rarely apply to livestock — thanks in part to a strong cattleman’s lobby. Studies suggest that youths who engage in animal cruelty often commit violent criminal behavior as adults. Among those who preyed on animals before turning on people were mass killers Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, and Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Strangler. The random killing of animals signals a troubling psychology experts are only beginning to understand. “When you do get to talk to kids and ask why they did it, the most common response is that they were bored,” said Randall Lockwood of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “They’re obviously troubled. Most bored teens shoot hoops or go see movies; they don’t go out shooting horses and cows. But you’re not going to hear them say, ‘I’m alienated against society and this is how I’m reaching out.’ ”