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"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

-- Mohandas Gandhi

There were many clues that little Eddie Kemper needed help, especially after he tortured and killed his family's cat.

"Animal violence often escalates into youth violence, domestic violence and other forms of violent behavior -- it's a deadly progression," says area animal-rights advocate Lori A. Szewczyk of Angola. And that fact has been confirmed by the Buffalo Police Department.

After honing his sadism with the cat, Edmund Kemper went on to shoot his grandmother, kill his grandfather, mother, her best friend and six other women.

And Ms. Szewczyk points out that such "notorious criminals as Jeffrey Dahmer and Richard Allen Davis tortured animals prior to their crimes against humanity," as did other local killers. "Children who witness abuse of animals tend to become abusers themselves," she says. To protect animals, as well as children and the community, experts will focus on the animal cruelty-human violence connection on Oct. 18 during YWCA's Week Without Violence: Protecting Our Children Forum.

It's especially timely with the newly enacted Buster's Law that makes intentional animal cruetly a felony. Buster was a 1-year-old family cat doused with kerosene and torched by a teen-aged boy last year in the Albany area.

What's also troubling is that cruelty to pets seems to be Hollywood's new sick joke.

Ms. Szewczyk, 34, first got involved in the animal-rights issue while in college, learning how the entertainment industry abuses animals. For more than a decade she has belonged to Animal Rights Advocates of Western New York. She has arranged for guest speaker Kim Roberts, manager for the U.S. Humane Society's First Strike Campaign, to speak at the forum. Ms. Roberts testified at a congressional hearing last year on animal/human violence.

Having a pet was always a privilege in Lori Szewczyk's family. Growing up in a single-parent household along with three brothers "we were not allowed to have any pets. Having a pet was reserved for those people who owned their own home and could financially afford the long-term commitment."

Nevertheless when she was a teen, her brother brought home a black-and-white kitten named Fluffy.

"I was afraid of him at first but quickly grew to love him very much," Ms. Szewczyk recalls. "Because we had not been allowed to have a pet before, the entire family fully appreciated our new kitty, and the novelty never wore off." Unfortunately Fluffy later contracted feline leukemia.

"My entire family was devastated. Even my oldest brother, who was about 18-years-old at the time, cried tears at the loss. Fluffy was the first of many cats who were adored and well-cared for. I believe that these early experiences made me view pet ownership as a long-term commitment. I enjoy animals. Each of my 'boys' -- two dogs, two cats -- has their own unique personality. I have learned so much from them about unconditional love." They are "sentient beings." That's why native Americans divide the world between the "two-leggeds" and the "four-leggeds."

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