How do you feel about scenes or incidents where the antagonist harms an animal? Can be done well? Has been done so often it's best avoided? Or best avoided for other reasons?
I was thinking about this because I'm planning to have pirates board the protagonist's ship in the WIP, and one of them will either kill an injured man in sickbay or toss the ship's cat overboard. I don't plan to dwell overlong on either, or describe the poor cat being eaten by a shark, but I was wondering if this would be too tired a trope. On the other hand, cruelty to animals is a supposedly a precursor of sociopathic behavior, and the pirates' leader definitely qualifies for that.
Anyway, it reminded me of Stephen King's The Dead Zone, with that scene at the start where Stillson sprays ammonia into a dog's eyes and then kicks it to death. He did some heinous things later on as well, but his viciousness towards the dog is what I remember best.