Animal Cruelty

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A Panama City elementary school teacher is charged with felony animal cruelty after investigators found 12 dead animals in her abandoned home in an upscale neighborhood.

Connie Givens Zales was arrested Wednesday, one day after police responded to reports of a foul odor coming from the house. Officers say found the home littered with feces, urine and garbage in addition to the rotting carcasses. In the words of one, "the house was basically abandoned."

Zales is a second-grade teacher at Waller Elementary in Panama City. She's charged with 11 counts of felony animal cruelty, even though police and neighbors say she no longer lived there.

Authorities believe the pets had been dead for some time, perhaps even months. The dead animals included four rabbits, three cats, two gerbils, an exotic bird, a hamster and a hedgehog.

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Why Should You Want to Stop Animal Abuse?

  • Studies of prison inmates show that 75 percent of violent offenders had early records of animal cruelty.

  • Studies have shown that families that were reported for animal abuse also had children listed as "high risk" for abuse and neglect.

  • In a Utah State University study, out of 101 female victims of domestic violence, 73 reported that the abuser either threatened or harmed their pets.

  • Animal abuse has been found to be an indication of child abuse, it has been found that animals are abused in 88 percent of the families where children are abused.

  • Ted Bundy, David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz and Jeffrey Dahlmer all had histories of repeated animal cruelty.

  • Animal cruelty carries felony-level penalties in about one-third of the United States, and is still treated as a minor crime in most places, according to the Humane Society.

  • In the 401 animal abuse cases reviewed, 15 percent ended with someone going to court, and only eight percent received a jail sentence.

Source: A compilation of Web reports contributed to this report.