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Can Violent Acts Like Sandy Hook Be Predicted?

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WMOT)  --  A mid-state professor is weighing in on the national discussion taking place concerning mental health and violence following the country’s most recent mass shootings.

The deaths of 26 students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut has prompted discussion about whether mental health professionals can, or should even try to predict violent behavior.

Dr. Mark Anshel teaches in the Department of Health and Human Performance at Middle Tennessee State.  He notes that a large body of research suggests that cruelty to animals is a strong predictor of a person’s potential for future violence acts involving people.

“The bottom line is that the animal abuse is a high predictor of human abuse, and I think that when we see our neighbors or others be very cruel – treat animals in a very cruel manner – that person has the potential to do far more harm to other animals as well as to humans.”

Dr. Anshel shared his thoughts in a letter that was printed Saturday by the Tennessean.

He suggests that reporting animal abusers might actually prevent the perpetrators from escalating to future acts of violence against people. He also suggests strengthening animal cruelty laws, a misdemeanor offense in Tennessee.