When the FBI offers up a profile of a serial killer, it often includes a history of animal abuse—usually from early age into adulthood. And the most frequent victims are dogs.
The main reason is the proliferation of canines in society. There are estimated to be nearly 90 million dogs living in households in the United States, and an estimated two million sheltered annually in pounds.
It's not definitively known how many dogs are feral or strays, but the number is probably in the tens of thousands at any given moment.
The overwhelming majority of news reports of intentional dog killings involve vulnerable pets, since they've usually been trained to trust humans and generally feel safe around us.
Assuming most family dogs are not living next door to a potential (or actual) serial killer, how can the rise in reported dog killings be accounted for?
Despite the general consensus that cats rule the internet, stories about dogs generate more web traffic than any other animal, on the whole. Just put the simple keyword "dog" in any search engine and there aren't enough hours in the day to wade through all the results.
Most of the links lead to heartwarming tales of canine heroes, the funny things dogs do, and, to a lesser extent, pleas for dog lovers to visit the local pound.
Of course, there are a significant number of news articles reporting on dogs harming, even killing people.
But most incidents are largely due to human negligence, carelessness, and, let's face it, the fact that most dogs are really domesticated wild animals capable of doing real harm.
But, increasingly, news articles are focusing on the alarming spread of animal abuse, up to and including stories about dog killers.
A typical entry, found after a quick Google search, is the story of Rico, a family dog who recently escaped from his backyard enclosure, as even the most contented and well-treated pets will sometimes do.
A day later, Rico was found dead by a nearby railroad track in Laurel, Maryland. At first, it was thought the dog had been struck by a train.
But upon closer examination, it was discovered Rico had been viciously mutilated and most likely left near the tracks to cover up any evidence of the heinous crime.
The local community is so horrified by the incident, it has collectively put up a $7,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the, as yet, unknown perpetrator.
A further scroll through the results surfaces this news article, which recounts the horrific story of a Cockapoo named Petta, found dead by its distraught owner on the front steps of their Indianapolis home after being repeatedly stabbed with a blunt weapon.
Last week, Petta's owner had been out doing errands and was shocked to return and find her pet dog of ten years viciously mutilated and killed by someone who broke into the house while she was away.
In this case, police have detained a suspect who lives nearby, and from whose house a bloody screwdriver was found and confiscated as evidence.
What these two increasingly typical cases point out is the rising number of instances in which dogs are viciously attacked for no logical reason, except to quench the homicidal desire of someone who unfortunately happens upon them at their most vulnerable moment.
These stories beg the question: What is happening in society which is resulting in the explosion of such cruel and inhuman treatment of usually beloved animals by otherwise seemingly normal people?
While it's disturbing enough to become aware of growing accounts of animal abuse and, in particular, the increasing phenomenon of vicious and inexplicable dog killings being reported, it's more troubling to consider just why this fearfully spreading trend may be occurring.
Will there be a rise in the future serial killer population?
Only time will tell...