Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 1 – 12.
Animal abuse frequently occurs at the same time and the same place as other types of violence, particularly family violence. In this article, the authors cite some of the research and propose that it is the responsibility of both animal service and human service professionals to be aware of its occurrence, understand its significance, and promote appropriate professional and policy responses to it.
Animal abuse frequently occurs at the same time and the same place as other types of violence, particularly family violence. Because of that close association, this article proposes that it is the responsibility of both animal service and human service professionals to be aware of its occurrence, understand its significance, and promote appropriate professional and policy responses to it.
Research literature addressing the link between animal abuse and other forms of violence (“the link”) is discussed. Articles selected for review were published in a peer-reviewed journal, relevant to some aspect of the link between animal abuse and child abuse and/or domestic violence, used either a national or a longitudinal database, or relied on random sampling or a comparison group. If a study was retrospective or drawn from a convenience sample, it had to have been replicated by another study for inclusion. Finally, any measurement instruments used by the study under review must have had acceptable reliability and validity. Legal databases, such as LexisNexis, were used to identify legislation that has been passed and/or court cases that have been decided that were relevant to the topic of “the link.”
Strong associations have been found between domestic violence, child abuse, and animal abuse; animal abuse, whether witnessed or committed. Severe animal abuse as a predictor for severe domestic violence recently emerged as a promising association. However, some of these findings on “the link” have not been translated into practice, for example, domestic violence advocates and child protection workers frequently do not ask questions about pets in the family. At the same time, the past 20 years have seen an increase in state and federal legislation and policies that have been enacted, in part, because of the growing body of evidence on the link.
When assessing the link, for example, one study examined the criminal histories of 150 men charged with some form of animal cruelty between 2004 and 2009, concluded that 41% had been arrested for IPV (Levitt, Hoffer, & Loper, 2016). A 2014 study (Febres et al.) also looked at men who had been arrested for domestic violence and assessed them for animal cruelty, antisocial personality traits, and alcohol use. They reported that 41% committed at least one act of animal abuse since the age of 18 as compared to a 1.5% prevalence rate reported by men in the general population.
Knowledge of the link also has influenced a number of court cases deciding parental rights. Moreover, awareness of the link is illustrated by the passage of pet protection orders for victims of domestic violence as well as the inclusion of pet abuse as a form of domestic violence. Human service and animal service professionals should articulate more ways in which they can communicate with one another, thus adding more information and resources to any intervention or treatment of family violence.