When teens kill pets, think sociopathy, not Satan


Texas police are waving the “Satanism” flag after a teen killed his family’s Chihuahua. Photo by Flickr user Celladoor.

What is it about Texas? This week, Rio Grande Valley’s Action 5 News reported that 18-year-old Joseph Adam Ortiz slashed the throat of his family’s pet Chihuahua. Primera police Chief Joe Rodriguez apparently couldn’t get through retelling the story without mumbling something incoherent about Satanism:

“The grandson used a kitchen knife. We heard he slit the dog’s throat. Yes, that’s what we have at this time. It’s just scary information that we have right now. Apparently there’s some reference to Satan or satanic. That’s what we’re getting right now, but that’s still under the investigation process to see if that is true.”

So, let’s see. Actual known facts:

1. The name of the alleged perpetrator
2. The type of dog
3. Whose dog it was
4. The weapon used
5. The method of injury

Aspects still under investigation:

1. “Some reference to Satan or Satanic.”

What does that even mean? Why would a police chief mention it at all, let alone to a reporter, who’s going to print it for thousands or millions of people to read, if they’re not even sure it’s a valid statement? And why would a news outlet, whose reports are meant to create a record of the definitive facts of a crime, repeat information that hadn’t yet been verified?

There are really very few reasons that people, especially young people, torture or kill animals. Animal abuse among teens is one of the hallmarks of sociopathic behavior, especially among those who go on to become killers. In some ways, it’s a way to vent frustration. In another, it’s a rehearsal for killing people. According to FBI Special Agent Alan Brantly:

Animal cruelty is mainly used to vent frustration and anger the same way firesetting is. Extensive amounts of humiliation were also found in the childhoods of children who engaged in acts of animal cruelty. During childhood, serial killers could not retaliate towards those who caused them humiliation, so they chose animals because they [animals] were viewed as weak and vulnerable. Future victim selection is already in the process at a young age. Studies have found that those who engaged in childhood acts of animal cruelty used the same method of killing on their human victims as they did on their animal victims.

Now, I’m not saying that Ortiz is a sociopath anymore than I’m saying he’s a Satanist (or not). What I am saying, however, is that paying attention to Satanism — whether or not it’s a factor in this case, and chances are good it isn’t — will distract from the very real possibility that Ortiz may do this again, or that he may choose a human victim next time. Now is when intervention is important. (In fact, it was probably important years ago.) Neighbors told reporters that Ortiz had been “acting strangely” the week before the act. Like “sweeping the entire street” strangely.

Parents, teachers, police, community members: if a child in your neighborhood is abusing animals, it’s time to step in and get help for that child. Don’t wait. And don’t listen to police and reporters who want to scare you with tales of the Devil instead.

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7 responses to “When teens kill pets, think sociopathy, not Satan

  1. Many sociopaths are never violent and many violent people aren’t sociopaths. Chances are a spiritual Satanist isn’t going to be a Sociopath, we’re rarely prone to delusional thinking, a LaVeying Satanist would make sense but a LaVeyian Satanist probably wouldn’t be violent unless severely violated in some way (basic reciprocity goes beyond LaVey btw). Also many Sadists have emotional empathy, in fact being able to empathize with the victim is often an important component of sadism. Plus there’s no telling if drugs were involved or what, he could very well be on medication like Prozac that messes him up, or be on some illicit substance.

    Then again who knows, maybe he’s a violent psychopath.

  2. I have been noticing. Some very strange aggressive behaviour towards my dogs and horse from one of the neighbor. Boys. I am going to put up some cameras. But in the mean time I’m worried when not at home for my animals safety. Also someone is putting dead animals in front of my house in the weeds. Today I found a dead bobcat. I have been finding dead birds and once I found a dead racking in my yard and another in the weeds in the front of my house. I’m going to talk to my paster about this tomorrow. What else can I do?
    Very concerned
    Donna taber

    • Donna, do your dogs go out by themselves? They could be hunting these other animals and leaving them. Or another wild animal could be, if you live in a rural area. Growing up, I had a cat who would “sort” his kills by type of animal and leave them in a spot by the side of the house. It’s pretty normal animal behavior and nothing to worry about.

      Also, if you have a humane society chapter in your area, they would be good to talk to about the dead animals you’re finding.

      What’s a racking?

      • I’m sorry that’s a type o….. raccoon. Well I know what your saying. My dogs are loose but don’t leave the yard. I did talk to my paster tray and he informed me that the boys were caught spot lighting and ran from the cops and cussed out the 911 dispatcher. Am absolutely that they are putting them in my yard. I have miniature Aussies and they are not the kind of dogs to kill raccoons or bobcats. If these kids don’t get some professional help. They are going to turn out to be our next generation serial killers!

      • Donna, if you have strong evidence that these kids are harming animals and leaving them in your yard, I suggest you discuss it with the police, not a pastor. Otherwise, again, please contact your local humane society or animal-control agency; it’s likely there is a larger prey animal at work in your neighborhood, and they will want to know about it.

      • What the he’ll is up with you. Do u think i’m a dumb ass. My pastor is fire marshal we are a very small community here. Trust me when I tell u this I would know if there were larger prey killing the animals. They sure as he’ll wouldn’t live then in my yard. If you can’t help me leave it alone._

  3. Donna’s mad as he’ll. I’m worried that she might start killing rackings.

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