A correlation between animal abuse, family violence and other forms of community violence has been established. Child and animal protection professionals have recognized The Link®, noting that abuse of both children and animals is connected in a self-perpetuating cycle of violence. When animals in a home are abused or neglected, it is a warning sign that others in the household may not be safe. In addition, children who witness animal abuse are at a greater risk of becoming abusers themselves.
A survey of pet-owning families with substantiated child abuse and neglect found that animals were abused in 88 percent of homes where child physical abuse was present (DeViney, Dickert, & Lockwood, 1983). A study of women seeking shelter at a safe house showed that 71 percent of those having pets affirmed that their partner had threatened, hurt or killed their companion animals, and 32 percent of mothers reported that their children had hurt or killed their pets (Ascione, 1998). Still another study showed that violent offenders incarcerated in a maximumsecurity prison were significantly more likely than nonviolent offenders to have committed childhood acts of cruelty toward pets (Merz-Perez, Heide, & Silverman, 2001).
In many communities, human services, animal services and law enforcement agencies are sharing resources and expertise to address violence. Professionals are beginning to engage in crosstraining and cross-reporting through inter-agency partnerships. Humane societies are also teaming with domestic violence shelters to provide emergency shelter for pets of domestic violence victims. In addition, some states have strengthened their animal-cruelty legislation and taken other measures to address The Link®. These state-level actions permit earlier intervention and send a clear message that all forms of violence are taken seriously. For example:
American Humane has been working to protect children and animals since 1877. For more than a decade, American Humane has been educating both the general public and professionals about The Link® between violence to people and animals by:
Ascione, F. R. (1998). Battered women’s reports of their partners’ and their children’s cruelty to animals. Journal of Emotional Abuse, 1(1), 119-133.
DeViney, E., Dickert, J., & Lockwood, R. (1998). The care of pets within child abusing families. In R. Lockwood & F.R. Ascione, (Eds.), Cruelty to animals and interpersonal violence. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press. (Reprinted from International Journal for the Study of Animal Problems, 4, (1983) 321-329.)
Merz-Perez, L., Heide, K. M., & Silverman, I. J. (2001). Childhood cruelty to animals and subsequent violence against humans. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 45(5), 556- 573.
American Humane’s National Resource Center on the Link. www.americanhumane.org/link or (800) 227-4645.
Ascione, F. R. (2001). Animal abuse and youth violence. OJJDP Juvenile Justice Bulletin.
Ascione, F. R., & Arkow, P. (Eds.). (1999). Child abuse, domestic violence, and animal abuse: Linking the circles of compassion for prevention and intervention. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press.
Barnard, S. (1999). Taking animal abuse seriously: A human services perspective. In F. R. Ascione & P. Arkow (Eds.), Child abuse, domestic violence, and animal abuse: Linking the circles of compassion for prevention and intervention (pp. 101-108). West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press.
Boat, B. W. (1999). Abuse of children and abuse of animals: Using the links to inform child assessment and protection. In F. R. Ascione & P. Arkow (Eds.), Child abuse, domestic violence, and animal abuse: Linking the circles of compassion for prevention and intervention (pp. 83-100). West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press.
Lockwood, R., & Ascione, F. R. (Eds.). (1998). Cruelty to animals and interpersonal violence: Readings in research and application. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press.
PSYETA AniCare and AniCare Child models of treatment of animal abuse. http://www.psyeta.org/