It's easy to kick the dog; in fact they almost seem to ask for it, eagerly adopting the role of living shadow and always sticking their noses in, wanted or not.
In fact, animals in general provide ample opportunity to vent frustrations and sometimes even a convenient excuse to channel hostility.
Admit it, after a trying day at work, coming home to a tipped over trash can and a guilty-looking snout covered in coffee grounds can be an easy excuse for rage, especially if one is looking for such an outlet.
And on the heels of spending eight hours with a tyrannical boss or unreasonable customers, there's nothing like a faithful furry culprit to help regain all the dignity and control lost to the grind.
To kick or not to kick — for most, it's not a question at all because logic defies thinking that kicking the dog will somehow unravel the tensions of life.
But there are those who lack the ability to see the logical side of things and even worse, those who delight in channeling their aggression toward creatures incapable of defending themselves.
And research shows that when someone is inclined to intentionally externalize and inflict, not only do they not stop with the dog, they tend to lack clear boundaries across the board and all too often, where one finds crime and violence, they also find animal abuse.
The simplified label is bully, the more scientific is anti-social and research has shown that animal abuse is not only a precursor to such tendencies, but more often than not, coexists with an array of other criminal and antisocial behaviors.
None of this is new information and the dynamic is well studied, but when a group of children in an eighth-grade Rio Rancho social studies class calls attention to it, somehow it seems a bit more profound.
Rep. Tim D. Lewis, R-Rio Rancho, heard those students, and little more than a week ago submitted a Memorial to the House (HM 46) requesting that the New Mexico Department of Public Safety study the feasibility of creating an internal database to track animal abusers.
Crediting the students for coming up with the idea while participating in Project Citizen, a national program aimed at increasing community involvement, HM 46 makes the following points:
l New Mexico has the second-highest rate of pet ownership in the nation.
l New Mexico is ranked by the Animal Legal Defense Fund as one of the worst five states for animals on the basis of animal protection laws.
l New Mexico has experienced an increase in reports of animal abuse to animal cruelty hotlines in the past decade.
l Research has established a significant correlation between animal abuse and family violence, such as child abuse, elder abuse and spousal abuse.
· Certain types of animal cruelty, particularly animal fighting, are linked to other activities harmful to communities, including gang-related crimes, drug and alcohol abuse and illegal gambling.
· A history of animal abuse is a more accurate predictor of sexual assault than is a history of conviction for homicide, arson or firearms offenses.
Maybe, as HM 46 suggests, a database could be a valuable tool for tracking and addressing repeat offenders, or could solidify research on the connections between crime and cruelty.
Then again, perhaps it's not appropriate and wouldn't make a difference at all.
But one thing is certain, it sure won't hurt to try and find an answer.
Especially when the question is coming from children who really just want to know what their leaders can do to make things better for the people, and animals, they care about.
Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org or on the web at: