Toward a Greater Understanding of the Assessment, Psychological Correlates, and Management of Human Perpetrated Sexual Behaviour Toward Animals
Sexual interest in and contact with animals has existed throughout history with varying levels of practice and acceptance. Despite this long history, very little is actually known about human sexual interest in animals and sexual behavior targeting nonhuman animals. The present dissertation aims to explore the phenomenon of sexual interest in animals through examining what veterinary medical professionals know about the detection and reporting of animal sexual abuse (ASA; Chapter 2), and through the creation of a psychometric self-report measure of sexual interest in animals and a visual stimulus set for animal attractiveness ratings (Chapter 3). To that end, this dissertation document is comprised of two studies. To date, there has been very little study of ASA. Subsequently, very little is known about veterinary medical professionals’ (e.g., Veterinarians, Veterinary Technicians, and Veterinary Nurses) knowledge of ASA and how they may contribute to the prevention of animal sexual abuse. Thus, the objective of this paper is to comprehensively and purposefully study ASA in a sample of veterinary medical professionals. Eighty-eight professionals were recruited through provincial/state professional associations and posts on social media to take part in a survey examining non-sexual abuse, sexual abuse, and criminal justice perceptions. Results indicated that, while veterinary medical professionals reported wanting more training on both nonsexual and sexual abuse, levels of knowledge were much lower for sexual abuse with fewer professionals reporting having received training in the area. Professionals also responded quite punitively towards individuals who have committed sexual abuse against animals and supported long prison sentences and registries for offenders. Veterinary medical professionals were very supportive of mandatory reporting of abuse but did not feel prepared to testify in these cases should they go to court. Sexual interest in nonhuman animals (zoophilia), is a scant investigated topic owing partially to difficulties in assessing the behavior outside of a clinical setting. While there have been previous attempts to categorize individuals with a sexual interest in animals into classification systems, this requires extensive clinical interviews and psychometric testing. Previous classifications also lack clarity on the adjacent concept of furryism and how it may be related to zoophilia. As there are currently no validated psychometric measures of zoophilia, individuals with a sexual interest in animals are a challenging population to research and may be under-detected in clinical settings. The central aim of the present study was to examine the measurement and correlates of sexual attraction to nonhuman animals through the development and refinement of psychometric and visual stimulus measures of animal sexual interest. Participants included 1,228 respondents (72% zoophilic and 35% furries) recruited from the online community. Results indicated that a Sexual Interest in Animals-Self Report (SIA-SR) scale had 4 distinct subscales with excellent discrimination for self-reported zoophilia. Moreover, endorsement of sexual interest in horses and dogs from visual stimuli was most common among the individuals in the sample, while dog and horse sexual and romantic attractiveness ratings also had the largest and most consistent associations with SIA-SR scores and self-reported zoophilia. Taken together, these results have implications for veterinary practice and education, as well as research and clinical practice with individuals with zoophilic interests. In terms of veterinary practice, the results indicate that veterinary medical professionals receive insufficient training on abuse—particularly sexual abuse—which could put their patients at risk of further harm. Moreover, the results contribute to a greater understanding of the sexual interest patterns for persons with zoophilia and have implications for theory, future research, and clinical practice.
Zoophilia, Bestiality, Animal Sexual Abuse
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)