The links between the violence perpetrated upon children and adults and that on animals are becoming more clearly established as health and education professionals and animal advocates review the evidence and research the issue.
Those working in the field of domestic abuse are particularly aware. Paws for Kids – www.pawsforkids.org.uk – in Bolton was established twelve years ago, when the Project Manager, Carole Marsden, observed that many women stayed too long with abusive partners because, without a refuge equipped to take in companion animals as well, they feared leaving them behind.
Paws for Kids asks:
How is harm to animals an aspect of domestic violence?
Paws for Kids was the first service of its kind in the UK, but in the USA they are much further advanced. There the connection between human violence and animal abuse has been researched in detail.
More information can be found on the following web sites:
The Humane Society of the United States – www.hsus.org
The Doris Day Animal League: www.ddaf.org
The Latham Foundation: www.latham.org
At Paws for Kids, we have identified a significant link between human abuse & animal abuse. This link is illustrated in results from the questionnaires returned to Paws for Kids by women who use the pet fostering service.
Each woman who uses the service is sent a monitoring questionnaire; the following is a breakdown of the information gained from those returned:
Below are two questions which all too often give disturbing answers:
- Before coming to the refuge, did your abuser threaten to or actually harm your pets?
- If you had children at home did they see or hear this?
46% of women indicated that their partners had THREATENED TO HARM their pets
29% indicated their partners HAD HARMED their pets
81% of the respondents had children
41% of the children in these families HAD WITNESSED THREATS OR ACTUAL VIOLENCE to their much-loved pet.
What Does Harm to Animals by Perpetrators of Domestic Violence Accomplish?
A violent man will use whatever there is in the home to maintain his power and control over his partner and children. By harming a pet, a violent man can re-enforce a sense of terror in his partner and children – he may not need to do anything else to demonstrate his power. By hurting a pet he is demonstrating what he is capable of.
If he kills a pet, he may be destroying the women or child’s only form of comfort & support and by cutting them off from the unconditional love of a pet, this will inevitably add to their feelings of isolation and despair.
If a pet is left in the home when a woman and her children go into a refuge, a man may choose to harm a pet to re-enforce the fear that, if she is not there, her pets are not safe.
We must also never forget that by threatening to harm a much-loved pet a child’s silence can be bought by an abuser – e.g. “If you tell anyone, I’ll kill your kitten”
We believe that:
- Agencies must look at the family as a whole: adults, children & animals
- Animal care and control professionals must be involved in communicating information to domestic violence and child protection agencies.
Animal abuse must be seen and documented as a human welfare issue. Animal abuse must be redefined as family violence.
~ The RSPCA education department is also developing a new strategy which will focus on young people who are intentionally cruel to animals.
As part of our strategy development, we have studied the link between animal and child/human cruelty. We are now in the process of developing resources for youth offending teams to use with young people within the youth justice system – both those who have been convicted of cruelty to animals and also those considered to be at risk of involvement.
Please visit: www.rspca.org
PETA produces a leaflet called Cruelty to Animals, Violence to Humans and a report for professionals, Animal Abuse & Human Abuse: Partners in crime.
www.petaf.org.uk and go to Human Abuse – Cruelty to Animals link.
~ Our committee member Ann Johnson has looked into this subject too, extending her research to the abuse of animals by children. She writes:
In the following web site, there is identified the rise in abuse of animals by children living in Baltimore US, where the issue is being taken very seriously. Of particular interest is the point where the need is identified for education to be carried out in faith-based schools regarding respect for non-human animals.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is reported to have called a meeting to “figure out a solution” and “reverse the trend this year.” The meeting included the police department, educators, parents and the already established Anti-Animal Abuse Task Force.
~ Again in the United States, this time New Mexico, the mayor of Albuquerque holds a conference each year on the issue. Please visit: http://e-solved.com/TheLink/.
This Spanish group participated in the New Mexico conference:
http://gevha.com/index.php – a site full of news and information – in Spanish and many other languages.