Over the course of two years, gruesome animal killings have surfaced across London and on Western's campus, and now the crimes are escalating.
The first incidents reported involved skinned and beheaded coyotes, but now the incidents have expanded with domestic pets as victims.
London Police Service were notified on Dec. 16 that a dead dog had been left on a dumpster on Adelaide St. near the Beer Store, according to Judy Foster, executive director of the London Humane Society. The dog was skinned and beheaded and a veterinarian later confirmed the dog's blood had been drained from its body.
“We’re appealing to the public for tips so that the public’s aware that we’re looking for someone that’s responsible for this," Foster said.
As reported by other news outlets, 17 similar incidences across London have occurred over the past two years. The London Humane Society and LPS have each having assigned their own investigators on the case.
“The offender is taking increased risks by leaving the carcasses out in plain view to enhance the shock value and also committing more serious mutilations,” said Michael Arntfield, a criminologist and professor at Western University. “So while it started with coyotes, we’ve now got a cat and dog and these are someone’s pets or have alternatively been adopted for this purpose.”
While many incidents have occurred around the city, some were also reported close to or on the University campus.
In March 2015, two dead coyotes were found on Western's campus in a snowbank off of the riverside trail between Delaware Hall and North Campus Building. The coyotes were laid parallel to each other. One animal was shot and the other appeared to be killed by a trap. A skinned and beheaded bunny was also found on campus within the past year, according to the CBC.
Who carries out these killings and why?
Arntfield believes all the crimes have been committed by a singular person or singular group of people as the paraphilia is very rare.
The acts are sexual and demonstrative of a zoosadist, he added.
Zoosadism is a predatory paraphilia in which an individual derives pleasure from cruelty towards animals.
Accoding to Arntfield, a zoosadist places “extraordinary erotic and fantasy value on cruelty and violence rather than on consensual, reciprocal, normal relationships.”
There are over 500 paraphilias according to Arntfield with some of them being harmless such as a shoe fetish.
Arntfield noted that a paraphilia like zoosadism is often a gateway to more serious crimes that harm humans. For example, necrophiles — individuals who have sexual attraction to corpses — often began as zoosadists. Jeffrey Dahmer, the ‘Milwaukee Cannibal’ is a famous case of a serial killer and sex offender who first started out torturing animals.
Not all zoosadists necessarily go on to commit other crimes, but Arntfield said there is a correlation and many rapists, murderers and serial killers began by harming animals.
In discussing what leads someone to commit such heinous crimes Arntfield cited the "vandalized love map theory."
During the formative years someone (typically a male) experiences some form of violence, abuse, trauma or neglect that interferes with their sexual identity. As the individual grows older they develop disturbing tendencies, as they associate their sexual identity with these incidences.
As for the incidences in London, Arntfield believes they will continue and grow in severity.
“The best indicator of future behaviour is past behaviour. We’ve seen over the past two years it’s been consistently escalating,” Arnfield said. “They’re no doubt enjoying the spectacle they’ve created. They’re only going to be more bold.”
Foster wants the public to be reminded that only one case involved a dog and to keep that in mind before panicking about the safety of their pets, as the Humane Society has already received phone calls from worried owners.
"We want people to have a piece of mind that this happened in a very limited way. Certainly there’s cause for concern, but there’s not [a need for] panic," Foster said.