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"The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel."
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There's something about cruelty towards animals that really gets to a lot of people. Maybe it's the fact that there's so little they can do to defend themselves (or maybe they do defend themselves, and promptly get put down for it). Maybe it's the fact that it's often so gratuitous and unnecessary. Or maybe it's the fact that we instinctively feel protective over all things small and adorable. Whatever the reason, almost all societies are going to look down on somebody if they hurt an animal for no good reason.

"Dangerous" animals, such as crocodiles, snakes, bears, sharks, and big cats (though they're just as likely to be sympathetic) are usually an exception, though; see What Measure Is a Non-Cute? for a possible reason, though it may also have a lot to do with the fact that those animals aren't as defenseless and therefore are not seen as easy victims. Pets in particular are seen as defenseless as tame animals tend to trust humans. Furthermore, they may be a threat to people and understandably force them to use violence. As Real Life shows, however, there may be exceptions with people neutralising the threat of dangerous animals in order to toy with them. In this case, they are as defenseless as the harmless animals and the perpetrator is just as bad as the others and even more clearly a Dirty Coward.

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An almost sure-fire way to make a character irredeemable is to invoke this trope. In addition, animal cruelty, especially mutilations, are often treated as an early warning sign for future violent criminals. Serial Killers are especially common in this regard. Sometimes, however, the whole thing may be played for Black Comedy (and Cringe Comedy) instead, in which case the show may take Refuge in Audacity and the person involved may not exactly be bad so much as he's stupid.

Note that as a general rule, the abuse must be human-on-animal (or, in Speculative Fiction, sapient-on-nonsapient), except for situations involving Furry Confusion. The animals must also not be anthropomorphic. Being able to use Animal Talk is acceptable, but the animals in the work must have roughly the same relationship with humans as they do in Real Life, so far as the humans concerned don't know about their sapience.

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Kick the Dog and If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten are not always related, since any act of gratuitous evil besides hurting animals can be substituted there. See also Cruella to Animals and Exotic Entree for more specific variants, and Enemy to All Living Things for a more supernatural one. Chronic Pet Killer may also overlap if the killing isn't done on accident. Contrast with Black Comedy Animal Cruelty, when this trope is Played for Laughs

While exaggerated in fiction, psychologists have even observed that animal abuse is a common early warning sign of a Serial Killer. As noted on the same sources, this is especially true of children living in an abusive environment who may use an animal to reenact violent episodes from their life. Given help, many of these kids grow up to lead healthy and productive lives.

Since there is a lot of debate on what does and does not count as animal abuse, No Real Life Examples, Please! As a rule of thumb, your example will need to legally qualify as animal abuse in Real Life in order to count. Also, just like Abusive Parents, this page is not for complaining about characters you don't like.

Sub-Trope to Good Taming, Evil Taming.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Satou Kashi no Dangan wa Uchinukenai:
    • The troubled (though not outright antagonistic) Mokuzu ends up killing all her school's rabbits, beheading one of them, and stuffing its head in her school bag.
    • Mokuzu's dad beat their dog, to the point where he killed him. This serves as foreshadowing to Mokuzu's own death.
  • Boa Hancock of One Piece has a habit of literally Kicking The Dog (or a cat or a baby seal) whenever she comes across them. She starts as a villain that Luffy opposes, but then becomes infatuated with him after showing his kindness; she still kicks little critters around, though, as she's still a big name pirate.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: A surefire way to show that the character is a villain is by having them do this.
    • In Part 1, Dio literally kicks a dog as soon as he arrives at the hero's home, and later burns it alive. After that point, animals, and especially dogs, usually suffer cruel fates to the current villain of the series. Even other animals can use this to show their evil. Pet Shop, a bird villain, has its Establishing Character Moment when it pulls a pair of dogs under a gate, decapitates them, and starts to eat them.
    • A notable exception, and a prime example of Contrasting Sequel Antagonist, is the villain Kars in Part 2. He goes out of his way to protect things that aren't human, as in one scene where he cuts off the arms of a driver to prevent them from running over a dog. This trait goes out the window when Kars gains The Power of Creation, which he first tests by making a double of a squirrel that messily devours the original.
    • In Part 4, one of the first things we see the Starter Villain Anjuro "Angelo" Katagiri do is bite off a pug dog's face. All because the owner wasn't cleaning up after it.
  • In a flashback of Your Lie in April, Kousei's abusive mom abandoned their pet cat after it scratched him on the hand. Kousei was being harshly trained to be a pianist to abusive degrees and his mother didn't want anything to happen to his hands.
  • In Revolutionary Girl Utena, Nanami ended up drowning her brother Touga's kitten because he was giving it more attention than her. Though not evil per se, she's definitely an antagonist of the Alpha Bitch variety for much of the show and clearly has a number of mental issues (mostly involving her brother) that don't really get addressed until late in the story. Her track record with animals in the present of the show is implied to be Laser-Guided Karma for this incident, as well as a curse put on her by Anthy, a well known animal lover and frequent victim of Nanami's abuse.
  • Pokémon:
    • One of Ash's rivals Paul (who is an expy of Silver from Pokémon Gold and Silver) is emotionally abusive towards his Pokemon and harshly trains them. He isn't exactly a villain, but is by far Ash's most antagonistic rival. He's also a serious Karma Houdini, since in his final episode he doesn't get any real comeuppance aside from getting beaten by Ash in a tournament—for all we know, he's still an abusive trainer.
    • In the Black and White series, we have Pignite's former trainer Shamus, who abuses his Pokemon and is pointed out as being bad.
    • Charmander's original trainer Damien was an abusive boy who told him that he'd come back for him, even when he had no intention of. He didn't even care that Charmander would have died due to his Undying Loyalty causing him to stay on the rock even in a storm. Pignite's trainer Shamus was an expy of Damien.
  • Shou Tucker from Fullmetal Alchemist experiments on animals to create his chimera. That is fine as many alchemists and scientists do experiment on animals... However, part of why he's so atrocious is because his experiments involved combining humans with animals. When he made his second talking chimera, he used his young daughter and their pet dog. Both were Mercy Killed by Scar a few hours later. His first talking chimera used his wife.
  • Elfen Lied: Tomoo, the orphanage bully who teased Lucy for her horns went as far as to take the puppy she had been taking care of and beat it to death. Shocking considering they're supposed to be seven years. It doesn't end well for the kids.
    Boomstick: Well, no shit she wants to kill everyone! Go ahead, Lucy! Tear up those little bastards!
    Boomstick: Oh... damn.
  • In The Legend of Yuria OVA for Fist of the North Star, when Yuria is being introduced to Ryuuken, her pet puppy starts barking. Jagi, a preteen boy and one of the aforementioned Ryuuken's kids, attempts to kill the puppy in response but the puppy is saved by Jagi's step-brother, Kenshiro. Jagi grew up to be a psychotic murderer, while Kenshiro grew up to be The Hero who ended Jagi's life.
  • King Hamdo, the psychotic ruler of Hellywood from Now and Then, Here and There, is introduced in the middle of an emotional outburst when a cat interrupts him. Guess what happens to the cat. Go on, guess.
  • In the anime of Bokurano, Kodama's Establishing Character Moment is to burn a beached crab to death with a sparkler, and he is later shown shooting at a cat with a pellet gun. Said individual's probably the most twisted of the pilots, and deliberately causes massive death and property damage during his battle to give his father opportunities to rebuild.
  • In the manga-only Demon-Revealing Arc of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, Natsumi has been watching her grandmother steadily undergo Sanity Slippage after the Great Hinamizawa Gas Disaster. However, things really come to a head when she walks in on her grandmother drowning puppies in their bathtub as a sacrifice to protect the family by pacifying Oyashiro. Shortly after, her mom apparently kills the grandmother because she's becoming a menace and destroying their peaceful life in the city.

    Comic Books 
  • In Calexit Jamil's first on-screen customer was a soldier that recounts how his sister's ex spitefully poisoned their hummingbird feeder and had to watch the birds die.
  • Spectacularly subverted by Marvel Comics' Doctor Doom, who lost a match against Squirrel Girl and her battalion of squirrels because Doom refuses to be cruel to small, cute critters. "Doom is never petty."
  • In Afterlife with Archie, when she was ten, Cheryl's puppy choked on her leash. Her Crazy Jealous Guy brother Jason killed her because Cheryl loved Sugar too much. It's later implied their relationship is at least somewhat forced by Jason.
  • 2000 AD:
    • Judge Dredd: When Judge Death recounts how he began his long career of evil in his Origins Episode, the first obvious clue that he was an Enfant Terrible are his early sadistic tendencies of torturing the family dog and shooting at birds.
    • Zombo: Played for laughs in a throwaway gag, when one of President of the Earth Donald Trump's assistants mentions that his boss once shredded a puppy.
  • The Darkness: Appolonia Franchetti snaps her pet cat's neck in front of Jackie just to prove a point how she will never let anything get in her way. The worst thing is that she did it right after saying she raised him since he was a kitten and he was very precious to her and she will miss him when he is gone.
  • Defied by The Joker in at least one story (Emperor Joker). Evil Jimmy Olson kills Superman, who has been turned into a dog, by crushing him underneath a fire hydrant. The Joker is simply annoyed, because he doesn't know how to make something as pointless as beating a dumb animal funny. Jimmy Olson is then beaten to death by two giant robots who appear out of nowhere.
  • Weirdly played with in the comic Sha. One of the five main villains, who is obsessed with insects, is seen petting a Cute Kitten before casually feeding it to his arthropod friends while remarking that insects are the "superior species" on Earth. Of course, given What Measure Is a Non-Cute?, this is probably a straight example.

    Fan Works 
  • In Darkrai's chapter of the Beginning Trainer's Guide to Pokémon, the in-universe author tells the story of a Trainer he knew who caught a Darkrai and decided to make it hate him as much as possible to maximize the power of its Frustration (a move that gets stronger the more the Pokémon hates its Trainer). He accomplished this by feeding it bitter medicine and forcing it to fight Fighting-type Pokémon it was weak against, so it would get knocked out constantly. Eventually the Darkrai turned on him and attacked him so ferociously that he was forced to release it, but it continued to haunt him and inflict terrifying nightmares on him every new moon. Four years later, the Darkrai was still stalking its old Trainer and forcing him to endure its nightmares, causing him to be reduced to a shadow of his former self.
  • Five Things The Baker Taught Anastasia, and One Thing They Learnt Together: The contrasting personalities between Anastasia and her sister Drizella is showcased by Drizella taking joy in animal's miseries. As a kid, she'd pull the legs off of bugs and laugh at animal deaths.

    Films — Animation 
  • Cruella DeVil from 101 Dalmatians is so driven to have a dalmatian fur coat to compliment her fur coat obsession that she orders her goons to break into a house and steal some and then kill them all in the quickest way possible ("drown them, shoot them, bash their heads with a rock for all I care!").
  • Leafie from Leafie, a Hen into the Wild was kept in a small cage all her life surrounded by other hens, only destined to produce eggs. She escapes at the beginning into the wild. Her owner is presented as an antagonist who later tried to clip her adopted duck son's wings.
  • Referenced in Don Bluth's The Secret of NIMH when Nicodemus recounts the origins of the intelligent rats.
    Nicodemus: We were captured, put in cages, and sent to a place called Nimh. There were many animals there, in cages. They were put through the most unspeakable tortures ... all to satisfy some scientific curiosity.
  • In the Bambi movies, the enemy and antagonist is Man. They murder animals often enough that animals have to watch out for them whenever going out in the meadow, and hide whenever they're in the forest. Subverted in that Man isn't actually presented as evil, though animals consider them horrifying gods who can kill them easily with their weird long arms. Wanting to present Man as a neutral character is why Walt Disney never showed their faces.
  • In Open Season, Shaw tries to murder animals he has no business killing, including Boog, a circus bear. He also goes out of his way to kill Elliot. He also falsely believes animals are trying to take over the world.
  • Doctor J Sweetly Applecheeks maintains a facade of caring for animals in Tom and Jerry: The Movie, but he actually captures pampered pets and ransoms them back to their wealthy owners. His dingy basement is filled with cramped cages where he terrorizes the animals with a horsewhip.
  • In the Shaun the Sheep feature film, Trumper imprisons most of the animals that he finds in what is essentially a prison, where they get little food and are treated like vermin. This is all to make him feel like a hero when he's actually pathetic.
  • Conrad Cuppman in the Hugo movies. He wants to make Hugo a movie star against his will, and pretty much destroys Hugo's home when capturing him.
  • Plenty of examples can be found in Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, often rubbing shoulders with Humans Are Bastards.
    • The stable master uses many bondage techniques in his effort to shoe and brand the titular stallion. Each failure dials up the cruelty a notch.
    • The railroad men hitch more than one hundred horses to yokes to pull a huge locomotive to the top of a grade in winter, motivating them with crops and whips. The locomotive is too bulky to power itself up the slope, and even the horses struggle with the icy footing.
  • Ursula the sea witch from Disney's The Little Mermaid has no regard for the well-being of others. She devours one of four terrified brine shrimp whole and alive like a cashew; she squeezes an anemone until it bleeds to use its blood as lipstick; at least two of the ingredients for her mermaid-to-human potion are live creatures in bottles, staring horrified at their impending doom. In her Vanessa disguise, Ursula kicks a growling Max the sheepdog, and tries to strangle Scuttle. She does show distress for her moray eels Flotsam and Jetsam when they're accidentally killed by the trident and is so horrified that she goes into a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, but this is likely Moral Myopia at work.
  • Wallace & Gromit: In A Matter of Loaf and Death, Piella is routinely cruel to her dog Fluffles, giving her a few not-too-gentle kicks, verbally tearing her down and outright trying to kill her in the climax. She's not particularly nice to Gromit either, trying to trap him in her house so he has to watch Wallace being blown up.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • John Wick: What motivates John for most of the movie is the fact that Iosef Tarakov and his gang killed his new dog, which was the last gift of his dead wife, among other things.
  • American Psycho: After Patrick Bateman murders a homeless man in a dark alley, he immediately stomps his dog to death.
  • Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare: As a young child, Freddy Krueger murdered the class hamsters with a hammer.
  • Halloween (2007): Michael Myers murders both dogs he comes across. He's also implied to have ate one.
  • The Good Son: Henry shoots and kills a dog with a nail crossbow.
  • In Whatever Happened To Baby Jane, Blanche's jealous and bitter sister Jane killed her pet bird and served it to her.
  • In The Uncanny, Valentine cements his position as a villain when he drowns Scat's three kittens (fortunately off-screen).
  • Hilariously averted in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, as Dr. Evil outright kills several people on the account of upsetting his cat, Mr. Bigglesworth. note 
  • Little Shop of Horrors: As part of his musical number, Dr. Orin Scrivello, D.D.S. mentions murdering lots of puppies, fish and cats before his mother noticed his "funny" behavior and suggested he put his sadism to more profitable use by taking up dentistry instead.
  • A rather disturbing example is in a Deleted Scene in The Cat in the Hat: The main antagonist Larry Quinn, before going to negotiate with a television store owner, decides to hide Nevins in a TV set by tying him up with the TV's plug, forcing him to chew on it, and then forcefully throws him into the set. To make matters more unsettling, Nevins yelps after being thrown into the TV. Not even the fact that all of this is shown off-screen helps matters.
  • Gothika: Discussed Trope when Dr. Miranda Grey explains her theory about the killer's accomplice's origins with the sheriff, which as a budding serial killer probably included torturing animals from a young age onwards. Then subverted when the sheriff reveals in a Wham Line that he never did enjoy it.
  • Brimstone: The first unambiguously cruel act the Reverend carries out on-screen is the wholesale slaughter of Elizabeth's lifestock.
  • The infamous "bunny boiler" scene from Fatal Attraction, which had Alex Forrest, a truly unhinged Yandere, killing and cooking the pet rabbit of Dan's daughter in the family's pressure cooker.
  • The Wizard of Oz: Miss Gulch (the Wicked Witch's Kansas counterpart) is already a pretty bitter and vile harpy every second she's on-screen, but she cements herself as irredeemably evil by barging into the Gales' home with a court order so she can take Dorothy's beloved dog Toto to the pound to be killed (and if it was up to her, she would do it by boiling the poor little thing in her oven). Turns out some random dog bit her earlier in the day and she couldn't care about finding out which dog it was — she already hates Toto, so she just went to the sheriff (which she has some control over) and told him that Toto did it so she could get rid of him.
  • Similar to Miss Gulch above, Mrs. Deagle of Gremlins jumps away from any possible sympathy from her very first scene and never looks back by swearing she will snatch Billy Peltzer's pet dog whenever Billy least expects it and she will toss it into her dryer in retaliation for it accidentally breaking a porcelain snowman of hers (Billy even offers to pay it back right then and there but she insists she won't accept anything less than the dog's life as payback).
  • In Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the Big Bad Elijah Mills wants to sell the dinosaurs to the highest bidders, many of whom are callous, uncaring criminals, just to satisfy his own hunger for monetary riches.
  • The titular characters of Tragedy Girls dissolve a (human) corpse in industrial lye, and casually admit that they had to practice making it to get the formula right, and had to go through a lot of stray cats and dogs before they finally got it. To make matters worse, one of the girls goes home to her oblivious father... who asks her if she's seen their cat lately.
  • In Circus of Horrors, Dr. Schüler delights in goading the various animals in the circus by poking them with the crop he carries with at all times. This eventually comes back to bite him when he gets badly clawed.
  • Tales of Terror: In "The Black Cat", Montressor is not content with abusing his wife Annabelle, but also torments her pet cat, and would undoubtedly kill it if it every stayed still long enough for him to get his hands on it. As might be guessed from the title, the cat provides him with his karmic comeuppance.
  • This trope ended up leading to a sequence being dropped from The Fly (1986). In between the scene that reveals Veronica is pregnant with Seth's child and her resultant Nightmare Sequence, there was originally a whole reel (known informally as the "monkey-cat" sequence) in which Seth, his Slow Transformation continuing apace, decides to use all three of his telepods to genetically splice together the surviving baboon and a cat. The resultant single creature violently attacks him, whereupon he beats it to death with a lead pipe. Because there is virtually no dialogue or obvious exposition via his computer to explain what his purpose in doing this is — instead it's revealed later as an attempt at finding the cure for his condition, one he tries to put through in the climax — the first test screening audience made the wrong assumptions about Seth and believed he was just being needlessly cruel to helpless beings. As a result, they no longer cared about his plight, which meant the rest of the film was a wash. Even though this meant losing an elaborate followup sequence that paid off the growth developing on his abdomen (an insect leg emerging from it), the whole reel was cut so Seth could remain sympathetic.
  • A dog is stabbed in Andy Warhol's Bad.

    Literature 
  • Agnes Grey: A recurring theme in the novel. The first family Agnes acts as governess to just seem like run-of-the-mill Upper-Class Twits whose children are Spoiled Brats... until she finds out the parents let their kids torture small animals like baby birds for fun. Years later, she realizes the local rector at a small town she's living in is not a good man because he kicks her neighbor's cat and her dog, while she realizes the pastor Mr. Weston is a truly good man because he pets those same animals instead of kicking them.
  • One of the reason the animals rebelled in Animal Farm was because Mr. Jones had been treating them worse and worse as he got older. The final straw came on a day where he straight up forgot to give them food.
  • In the Arcia Chronicles, whether a person of Royal Blood gets along with the cats living in the Imperial Palace of Munt is a surefire indicator whether he will be The Good King or a bad one. Justified in that the "cats" are actually cat-shaped guardian spirits of the palace and being accepted by them is an ancient rite of passage for future kings that the humans have long forgotten. Charles and Alexander Tagere get along with the "cats" right away, Philip Tagere has more trouble with them, while both Pierres Lumen can't stand them (mutually), which perfectly mirrors the scale of how virtuous they are presented by the narration.
  • In the prehistoric world of The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, it's an everyday activity to hunt for food, but the prey is respected through proper homages to set their souls to rest and by using what's not eaten in toolmaking. There are also reserves in hunting predators. The main villains, the Soul Eaters, violate these rites by hunting down predators, killing them for certain body parts to be used in their spells, and leaving the rest to rot. In addition to that, the Crippled Wanderer begins the first book's plot by trapping a demon in a bear's body, and by the time of the last book, Eostra has corrupted a pack of dogs as her bloodthirsty minions. Thiazzi in particular takes pleasure in torturing predators that are caught and unable to fight back. The only Soul Eater who doesn't like needless animal cruelty is Nef who also performs a Heel–Face Turn.
  • In Discworld: Snuff Sir Sam Vimes, Commander of the Ankh-Morpork Watch, regales an inexperienced but eager village constable, Feeney, with how a man had once cut off his dog's back legs when it wouldn't heel. Lord Vetinari ordered the man's house searched by the Watch, and he was executed a week later for what they found in his cellar.
    Vimes: And bloody Vetinari got away with it again, because he was right: where there are little crimes, large crimes are not far behind.
  • In Ender's Game, Ender's sadistic older brother Peter mutilates squirrels in the woods near the family home. This is something of a subversion though, since even though Peter is clearly a sadist and Ender is more compassionate, by the end of the book Ender (unwittingly) commits genocide, while Peter (selfishly) brings about world peace.
  • Graceling: King Leck of Monsea, a sadistic murderer who enjoys torturing people, started on animals first. He's even shown doing this in the prequel, Fire.
  • In The Haunting of Drearcliff Grange School, supervillain-in-training Miss Steps demonstrates her sadism by pinning the protagonist between 'slabs' of telekinetic force, then boasting about how she's used this technique to squeeze live rabbits to death. The Fire And Ice Duo Thorn and Frost, who also grow up to be supervillains, are revealed to have respectively burned a cat and frozen a dog to death.
  • Doctor Moreau in H. G. WellsThe Island of Doctor Moreau uses vivisection on animals in order to deform and mutate their bodies making them more human-like. This was no casual, as Wells (himself an animal rights' activist) wrote the book as a protest against the practice of vivisection that was still practiced (though near to be outlawed) in Britain at the time.
  • Young sociopath Patrick Hockstetter in IT cemented his evil cred by murdering his own baby brother as a small child, and makes a game of torturing animals by locking them in an abandoned fridge to slowly starve to death. His gruesome fate at IT's hands is terrifying, but not the least bit tragic.
  • In the Kenzie and Gennaro Series this trope is used in Prayers for Rain when the Big Bad kills a dog For the Evulz and specifically goes out of his way to do so. In real life, author Dennis Lehane is a well known dog lover.
  • In The Manchurian Candidate, Mrs. Iselin makes a passing remark in her narration about how she once nailed the paws of her cocker spaniel to the floor because he wouldn't obey a "heel" command. This was just one of multiple pieces of Troubling Unchildlike Behavior she displayed and an early sign of her Control Freak nature, and her older brother is specifically noted as having seen this and been disturbed by it.
  • In Perfect the Pig, a pigglet wishes he had wings, and when his wish is granted he flies away from his farm, and the girl that finds him adopts him as her pet, plays with him, allows him to fly in open spaces, and feeds him well. The man who stole Perfect, uses him as a sideshow attraction to earn money, chains him down and locks him in a small room, and feeds him garbage. At the end when Perfect is reunited with the girl, they have a happy ending with Perfect flying above her.
  • The main characters from The Plague Dogs were experimented on in the beginning of the book, with one of them being repeatedly drowned and then resuscitated. The Animated Adaptation made it especially hard to watch
  • Ratburger has Burt who makes rats into burgers and cockroaches into "ketchup" and Sheila who killed the protagonist's hamster.
  • In Red Dragon, the Tooth Fairy killer's pattern involves killing a family's pet before killing the rest of the family.
    • It's also mentioned that Hannibal Lecter had a record of childhood cruelty to animals.
  • In Reflections of Eterna by the same author, one of the first things we see Richard Oakdell do is to try to kill a rat with the local equivalent of the Bible for no reason other that it annoyed him. Word of God is that this either served as his Start of Darkness or was an early indication of his moral flaws that blossom in later books.
  • Secrets Not Meant To Be Kept has Martha Plunkett and her staff at Treehouse, a preschool that is actually a toddler sex ring. Having previously assigned the kids rabbits to care for, to get them to go along with their molestation, Plunkett eventually kills the rabbits in front of the kids to terrorize them into keeping silent about the molestation.
  • The Sherlock Holmes short story "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches" has Holmes being hired by Violet Hunter to investigate her employers the Rucastle family. She notes that Mr Rucastle keeps a starved mastiff on his property which is only let out at night to savage potential intruders, that he is particularly proud of his son's skill for squashing cockroaches, and that the son has a penchant for trapping and torturing small birds and mammals. Holmes takes this as evidence of the Rucastles' malicious nature, noting that streaks of cruelty are commonly passed from parent to child.
  • The titular young beagle in Shiloh routinely flees his abusive owner Judd Travers, and seeks out neighbor Marty Preston, because Marty doesn't batter, cage, and starve the dog.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Joffrey Baratheon is one the cruelest, most sadistic characters in the story. It's mentioned than when he was younger, he cut up a pregnant cat. His father was horrified and beat him for it, though his mother didn't find it disturbing at all (which makes sense considering she's almost as awful as he is). In stark contrast, his younger brother Tommen is a sweet kid who adores his three pet kittens. It's also worth noting that early in the first book, Joffrey suggests killing Bran Stark's direwolf and takes pleasure from the fact that Sansa's direwolf was put to death.
  • The Space Trilogy: In Perelandra, the Un-Man, when not tempting the Venusian Eve or irritating Ransom, will mangle as many critters as it can find and leave them to suffer and die. It is so expert at this that Ransom's attempt to put a frog thus abused out of its misery backfires.
  • Throughout Stray, the stray cat Pufftail tells his grandson Kitchener why he doesn't trust humans and why he prefers to be alone. He's had many bad experiences with humans in the past:
    • Pufftail's second owners only took him in because Pufftail, then called "Fluffie", and his brother Bootsie had belonged to the wife's elderly mother. Their owners had an Awful Wedded Life and often yelled at each other (and their daughter) a lot. Neither liked cats much, especially the husband. They would often forget to feed them all day and routinely neglected the brothers. After Bootsie killed their pet budgie, they began hitting and kicking their cats.
    • When Fluffie and Bootsie's owners went on vacation, they left their adult daughter to take care of their cats. The daughter and her boyfriend forgot to come over for over a day. The daughter wasn't so bad, but her boyfriend was. While drunk, he and a friend decided to get rid of Fluffie and Bootsie. They stuffed the cats into bags and threw them out of a moving vehicle. Bootsie didn't survive the incident.
  • Survivor Dogs:
    • The Fierce Dogs have a morning exercise ritual where they take turns chasing and pinning down a scared rabbit, before killing it. Lucky finds this behavior to be torture and compares them to sharpclaws.
    • The Fierce Dogs killed a fox kit named "Cub Fire". When his family found out they decided to get revenge, but mistook the Wild Pack for killing their cub.
    • According to Arrow, the men at the "Dog-Garden" where the Dobermann's come from rigorously trained the dogs. They'd strike the dogs (even pups) if they didn't perform correctly. This might explain why the Fierce Dogs are almost all vicious Angry Guard Dogs.
    • Lucky was a happy Leashed Dog pup until he was adopted by an abusive, alcoholic owner. Lucky ran away from that home and has been turned off from humans ever since. Just the thought of wearing a collar upsets him.
  • Tortall Universe: In Mastiff, Beka Cooper finds the best scent hound in the city in the hands of a cruel trainer, and she is underfed and constantly whipped to make her obey faster. She confronts the trainer about it, and becomes the dog's caretaker herself. Also has an inverted example, as Beka is somewhat dismayed to find out that crime lord Pearl Skinner is a dog lover since it will make it harder to bring her down.
  • In Warrior Cats, there is a Twoleg living near SkyClan who is cruel to his pets. In Firestar's Quest, Petal and her kits have to be rescued from him, and in SkyClan's Destiny, the perpetually nervous Shrewtooth reveals that he is so jumpy because he used to be owned by the same man. SkyClan attacks the man to try to teach him not to mistreat any more of his pets.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Blood Drive: Rib Bone is a thoroughly bad person, but he kills someone because they left their dog in a truck with the windows shut and promptly, dotingly, adopts her. Of course, his victim was a redneck cannibal, so...
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Angelus once nailed a puppy to a girl's door before committing some unspecified atrocity. Buffy even makes a point of telling him that she doesn't have any pets so he better skip that part in his campaign to terrorize her.
    • He also kills Willow's fish.
  • We don't see it too much in Criminal Minds- the killers tend to focus on human victims- but they frequently quote the "homicidal triad," three behaviors that can be an indicator of psychopathy: bedwetting, setting fires, and cruelty to animals.
    • Of characters who actually do harm animals in-series, we have: a teen boy who feared he would become a psychopath and admitted to killing a bird when he was younger ("Sex, Birth, Death"), a young boy who killed his brother and admitted (off-screen) to Prentiss that he'd formerly killed the family puppy ("A Shade of Gray"), Ashley Seavers's serial killer father who drowned a puppy she brought home as a child ("What Happens At Home"), another teen boy who practiced his technique on dogs before moving on to women ("The Apprenticeship"), and a man who treated his victims as birds and killed birds in front of them as part of the torture ("Nelson's Sparrow").
  • One Victim of the Week on CSI is an awarded humanitarian activist that had been torn to pieces by dogs. As the investigation went on, the cast finds out that she was instead a hard-core Asshole Victim: the head of an underground dog fighting ring that used her reputation as a defender of animals to remain a Villain with Good Publicity and Beneath Suspicion. Her killer is the man who took care of said dogs (and had to see them die painfully or be mistreated to breed their ferocity by her), who reached his Rage Breaking Point when the FBI (who he was an informant to) decided to do nothing about the ring, insisting that their hands were tied because of her reputation and connections even after he gave them a virtual truckful of evidence.
  • Dexter: It's implied that Dexter killed animals as a child, which was what made his father guess he was growing up into a Serial Killer.
  • In an episode of Dinosaurs Charlene, wanting attention takes in some young humans, which in the show's reality are basically wild animals, and trains them to do some tricks. This attracts the attention of a talent agent, which takes Charlene and her humans on tour, and to keep them in line he tells Charlene that she shouldn't feed them until after a performance, which she reluctantly agrees to since it means being famous. Robby calls her out saying that this is animal cruelty, and even Baby Sinclair, who is incredibly selfish, gives them some of his food when he sees them begging. When one of the humans refuses to do a dangerous stunt, the agent tells her to use a an electric prod to force her to perform, but Charlene refuses, and after disbanding her act, sets the humans free where they go to their mother.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Witchfinders", Becka Savage, a local landowner who has killed three dozen of her village's residents in a Witch Hunt, had all of the horses on her estate shot out of paranoia that they were in league with Satan.
  • In one episode of the live-action Gokusen series, one of Kumiko's students gets in trouble for beating a pair the piss out of two students from a prestigious school. As it later turns out, Kumiko's student did so to stop them from throwing rocks at a puppy. Kumiko makes a point to visit one of the "victims" to remind him that animal cruelty is a crime.
  • Hitler: The Rise of Evil: After a stray dog adopted by Hitler in the trenches humiliates him in front of his fellow servicemen by pissing on his leg, he responds by dragging it off and beating the poor thing to death. However, doing so actually saves Hitler when a shell explodes in the shelter where they just were. In Real Life Hitler was actually a massive animal lover and owned two dogs.
  • In Leverage "The San Lorenzo Job" the team is facing a corrupt president of a small, fictional, island, European nation backed by a powerful force in the criminal underworld. As the politician is known to be corrupt already, and the normal smear tactics of money scandals or sex scandals wouldn't be enough to damage his reputation further, the heroes invoke this trope and claim he is running a dog fighting ring in his presidential palace. The crimelord is even impressed by the tactic and recognizes its potential effectiveness.
  • A first season Millennium focuses on an isolated farm worker who furtively maims and kills horses. Frank looks into the crimes in the hopes of stopping a Serial Killer before he starts. The horse killer moves onto killing people when someone startles him in the act, then moves onto deliberate murder of humans. His story comes full circle when a team of horses trample him during his confrontation with Frank.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: In the Mouse Organ sketch, a man plays "The Bells of St. Mary's" on a mouse organ - a bunch of [unseen] mice he whacks with a mallet so that they squeak out the tune. The in-universe audience reacts with horror and a stage manager grabs him & pulls him offstage.
  • The Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation episode "Going Ape" has Bonesteel, a recurring villain who tries to hunt the Turtles, admit that he enjoys hurting baby seals.
  • The White Queen: George of Clarence, the most deceitful member of the House of York, poisons his own pet dog just so he can blame Queen Elizabeth for its death and paint her as a murderer who wants to get rid of him, his wife and their unborn son.

    Religion 
  • From the Book of Proverbs in The Bible: "The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel." (Proverbs 12:10)
    • That's also partly why the Sabbath day law was instituted by God for His people Israel — not only for the sake of His people being given rest, but also so that their work animals would be given rest. Jesus points this out to the Pharisees for their condemning Him for healing people on the Sabbath, challenging them by saying, "Don't you let your animals loose on the Sabbath so that they can be watered?" or "Don't you rescue your animals on the Sabbath if they fall into a pit?"

    Theatre 
  • In The Little Foxes, Alexandra complains about Leo beating the horses when they were out riding together. This cruelty is portrayed as representative of the Hubbard family, since their having "killed animals they couldn't use" was very offensive to Birdie's late mother.

    Video Games 
  • Done constantly in MOTHER 3. Most of the enemies you encounter in game are "chimeras", wild animals who have experimented with to either fuse them together or partially roboticize them. Then there's a segment in which you actually play as a monkey who is facing Electric Torture at the hands of his master.
  • The whole point of the original Sonic the Hedgehog games is to save little forest animals who have been stuffed inside robots by Dr. Eggman, the (usual) Big Bad.
  • Pokémon examples:
    • In Pokémon Black and White, it turns out that at least two members of Team Plasma aren't as kind to Pokemon as they claim, when they kick a Munna in an effort to extract some Phlebotinum.
    • From the same game, there is Ghetsis, the secret leader of Team Plasma. His Hydreigon knows Frustration at its highest possible power level. Frustration is a move that grows more powerful the more the Pokemon dislikes its trainer.
    • In Pokémon Sun and Moon, one of Lusamine's most heinous acts is torturing Cosmog, a baby Pokémon, in order to get it to open up a portal to Ultra Space. She also cryogenically froze a number of Pokémon for her own amusement.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, many bandits capture animals such as wolves so they can bet on them in pit fights. Others brutally murder the usually peaceful mammoths for meat.
    • If you're playing as a Khajiit, you'll likely hear the taunt "You remind me of my cousin's cat. Killed that too!".
  • In Far Cry 4 it's not uncommon to find caged tigers or other predatory animals in Royal Army camps and to see soldiers poking at them. One very satisfying way to clear out the camps is to release the tigers and let them kill all the soldiers.
  • In Tyranny, the psychopathic Verse mentions practicing her knife work on the animals at her family's farm before joining the Scarlet Chorus for further opportunities to maim, torture, and brutalize people under the banner of Kyros.
  • In Dishonored 2 using the Heart on Kirin Jindosh reveals, among other things, that he vivisected a cat as a child because he "wanted to see how the parts worked".
  • The titular character of Mad Father killed animals as a child, eventually graduating to people. As it turns out, his daughter Aya inherited this trait, and a big part of why he wants to turn Aya into a doll is to prevent her from turning out like him.
  • Moshi Monsters: The main antagonists are a group of baddies called C.L.O.N.C.: The Criminal League Of Naughty Critters. They are very cruel to Moshlings (the little pets on-sight) and kidnap them, enslave them, turn them into evil creatures called Glumps, steal their sandwiches, and hit them.
  • In Metal Gear Solid, if the player chooses to have Snake shoot the rats scurrying around the facility, he'll get a chewing-out from Colonel Campbell. Do it too much and Naomi will recite the old saw about animal abuse being "one of the signs of a psychopath".
  • Persona 5
    • One Mementos target, which you find by working at a convenience store, has hurt and killed many cats. Morgana, who's in the form of a cat, is especially insistent that you steal his heart.
    • Sugimura, Haru's abusive fiancé, kicks Morgana out of the way when he tries to intervene to help Haru.
  • Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus shows that in BJ's childhood, his father Rip forced him to shoot his beloved pet dog as punishment for befriending an African-American girl (and if you intentionally miss the shot during the segment, Rip kills the dog himself). Years later, the true depths of Rip's wickedness come to light when BJ learns that he sold out his mother, a Jewish Pole, to the Nazis.
  • In Yakuza 1, at one point, the player is shown a group of thugs who are laughing while throwing rocks at a stray puppy. The series being what it is, One-Man Army Kiryu happens to be nearby while this is going on. Cue thrashing.

    Webcomics 
  • In Spinnerette, the North Korean supervillain Colonel Glass would occasionally skin random animals using his glass powers and leave them near the DMZ to intimidate the South Koreans. He does the same to an alley kitten in Columbus, to keep himself from boiling over and blowing his cover by killing people.
  • Drowtales uses this several times:
    • Syphile cemented herself as an antagonist both In-Universe and out by brutally killing Fuzzy, the kitten owned by her adopted sister Ariel, purely because Syphile was having a bad day. The remake version of chapter 1 also pulls a Bait-and-Switch by at first having her accept Ariel having the cat instead of killing it right off, only to lock the two of them in the room for a week, which unsurprisingly leads to Fuzzy defecating everywhere and becoming sick from lack of food. Then she kills it by smashing its head against the wall.
    • Also used for Foreshadowing with the character Jer'kol, who at first acts like an ally to Ariel, but the fact that his wolf is in bad shape physically and seems to have been abused is a big red flag about his true nature and a hint that the above mentioned Syphile actually hired him to kill Ariel.
    • Then there's Yuh'le, a character explicitly described as The Sociopath who is first seen exploding fishes with her mind using her particularly potent brand of Blood Magic. The fact that Mel'arnach, who knew her years ago, knows she does this and still describes her as a good friend if a little odd is a big signal that Mel is a Horrible Judge of Character.
  • In Freaking Romance, as if being an abusive parent weren't bad enough, Zylith's father used to kick her cat whenever he scratched him.

    Web Original 
  • In Ultra Fast Pony, Fluttershy starts off as an incompetent version of this trope. She keeps a bunch of animals that she calls her slaves and treats as such—or at least she tries to. She's so spineless that she can't bring herself to abuse the animals like she wants to. (Later, she decides she'd rather help her animals, at which point she starts hurting and killing them through sheer stupidity.)
  • Cracked has a list of 8 Awesome Cases of Internet Vigilantism. #2 is a case where a 14-year-old posted a YouTube video of him beating up a cat. The video caught the attention of Anonymous, who tracked him down through his social media accounts and got him and his brother arrested.
  • Every episode from The Nostalgia Critic covering Pokémon that features the Critic mocking the franchise and fans of it has this in some capacity. One of the worst examples came from a scene where the Critic outright killed Pokémon in the commercial; the other came in the Freddy vs. Jason review where he even let Ash Williams decapitate Ash Ketchum's Pikachu, then yelled at Ketchum to "Suck it up".
  • The Cult of Scratchwood boasts a Blue and Orange Morality example. In Improvement of the Daleks, the Daleks turn Matt's puppy into a cyborg abomination, to Matt's horror. And they genuinely think they're helping.
  • Pony & Boy: A pony-hating man beats up the boy because he thinks he's calling him a pony. He then threatens to beat up the boy's pony.
  • In Pokémon World Tour: United, Brian is introduced as an unscrupulous Pokemon Contest Coordinator, directly attacking Victor's Lillipup, Biscuit, and being penalized for it. Later, he appears and demands Cobalt fight him, all the while making disparaging comments towards Cobalt's Cyndaquil, Treble. During the battle, Brian uses a Typhlosion, Cyndaquil's fully evolved form, and Cobalt recognizes both that it appears to be fighting entirely against its will and that it was likely forced to evolve just as unwillingly. This leads to Rose and Cobalt confiscating the Typhlosion after the battle and turning it in as part of filing an abuse complaint. Everyone who refers to the incident regards Brian's actions as the worst thing imaginable. During the trial, much later, it also comes out that he apparently bred numerous Cyndaquil and abandoned the ones he considered useless, including Treble.

    Western Animation 
  • Recurring villain Professor Nimnul from Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers episode "Catteries Not Included" captured about one hundred cats, and kept them in cages until needed to charge his weapon. Mechanical hands would then seize the cats from the cages, and hold them aloft while large nylon brushes scrubbed them vigorously. Many of the cats cried out in distress at this treatment.
  • In one episode of The Powerpuff Girls, when Miss Keane lets Mitch take Twiggy, the class hamster, he abuses her for fun.
  • Eustace Bagge from Courage the Cowardly Dog does this to the titular dog on a regular basis. Taken Up to Eleven in "Ball of Revenge" where he even went as far to hiring Courage's past foes to actually kill Courage.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, we discover Azula's way of "feeding the turtleducks" in the royal gardens as a little girl - throwing a loaf of bread at them. Years later, when she's a teenager, they still flee when she appears.
  • An example from Rick and Morty: Alongside a school bully, a Neo-Nazi, a Westboro Baptist Church member, and the Devil, one of the random people that Rick and Summer beat up in the episode "Something Ricked This Way Comes" is a guy who mistreats his dog.
  • Tom's replacement owner is far more abusive to him than Mammy Two Shoes.
  • Spawn:
    • At one point we see Jason Wynn, Spawn's former boss when he was human, talking to someone on the phone whilst holding a puppy. Casually, not even stopping his conversation, he walks over to a fish tank and drops the dalmatian puppy in... said tank is full of piranha, who start ripping the puppy apart. There's no reason why he had to do this. He just does it because he can.
    • In one scene, The Clown confronts Spawn on a church's roof. We see he's stroking a cat...then he snaps its neck and throws it off the roof.
  • Beavis And Butthead frequently abuse animals in early episodes, though this was toned down in later episodes due to complaints.
  • Samurai Jack shows that Aku's demonic minions clearly abuse animals. "Jack and the Flying Prince and Princess" shows them pulling in a helpless dog as it tries to escape torture. Of course, Aku himself allows this in his regime.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show: "Ren Seeks Help," the second episode of Adult Party Cartoon, reveals that Ren regularly tortured and mutilated animals as a child; in particular, he abused a frog to the point said frog literally begged Ren to finish him off.
  • Kaeloo: Mr. Cat, an anthropomorphic cat, regularly abuses non-anthropomorphic sheep for Black Comedy Animal Cruelty in various ways such as kicking them, lighting them on fire and shooting them with bazookas. The sheep are Made of Iron so they survive all of it.

    Other 
  • Bravo (the British channel) had three idents that contained this trope. They consisted of one where we see rabbits on a farm roaming around, and then a grenade falls down and explodes them, one where a cat is locked up in a cage, and one ident where a goldfish is seen, then the camera zooms out to reveal that it's in a blender, leading to where the goldfish is blended off-screen.
  • William Hogarth's series of engravings intended as moral instruction, The Four Stages of Cruelty. In the first stage, an antisocial boy named Tom Nero tortures a dog for his own amusement. In the second stage, now an adult, he savagely beats his own coach horse out of frustration until he puts out its eye. In the third stage, he graduates to robbery and the seduction and murder of a servant girl. The fourth stage displays the aftermath of his "reward" for his crimes; execution.
  • One of the classic Mars Attacks! cards shows one of the Martian invaders disintegrating a boy's dog in front of him, apparently for no other reason than just being a dick.


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