Ray Connors is head of the state's animal control unit, and he's convinced the state is taking these abuse cases much more seriously these days because of what hurting animals can lead to.
"There are numerous studies of the links between animal abuse and child abuse," he points out. In fact, Connors' Department of Agriculture unit and the state's child welfare agency now routinely exchange information in animal abuse cases.
Connors says the animal cases are cross-checked to see if the state has any of those addresses on file for families with troubled or neglected children.
He also thinks animal control officers around the state — the folks who are usually the frontline responders in animal abuse cases — "are better trained than they were 10 years ago." Connors says that has led to better collection of evidence and statements, which gives prosecutors much more to work with when taking a case to court.
"Society as a whole has changed" when it comes to animal abuse," says Connors. "We're seeing more people calling in with things they're concerned about."
Gordon Willard, executive director of the Connecticut Humane Society, has the same opinion about public attitudes toward abuse of animals.
"In the old days, a kid would set a cat on fire and the family would say, 'Oh, that's just a kid being a kid,'" says Willard. Today, people are far more likely to "realize that's wrong... to realize we need to do something about it."
"We are learning there are connections between animal cruelty and spousal abuse, child abuse, elder abuse," he says. "If someone is doing this to animals, they are just warming up for the big game."
According to the annual rankings of the Humane Society of the United States, Connecticut ranked 12th among all the 50 states for the way it deals with animal abuse. (California, Massachusetts and Illinois were rated highest in 2012, with Mississippi, Idaho and South Dakota at the very bottom.)
Feral doesn't see any of this as terribly encouraging. "There's too much of it," she says of what she believes is an ongoing epidemic of animal abuse. "In most cases it's an act of rage... It's about a society filled with irrationality and anger, and there's no hope that it's getting better."
Willard quickly agrees that Connecticut could do a lot more to stop people who do hateful things to animals, but he believes growing public awareness of the issue is a good sign.
"My gut tells me that we've become more sensitive," he says, "and I hope to heck we're doing less harm to animals."