The link between animal abuse and human violence
Research has established a strong connection between abuse towards animals, and abuse towards people. When a person abuses an animal there is a risk that they may also be abusive towards other people in their lives. Children who experience abuse towards animals, or abuse within the home, are also more likely to abuse animals or perform acts of violence towards people later in life. They repeat lessons learnt in the home: to react to anger with violence, and to perform this violence on more vulnerable individuals.
Animal abuse can take the form of physical violence, torment, neglect, or threats to safety – be it to household pets, wildlife, or farm animals. It is often used by the abuser to demonstrate power over other family members, and promote an environment of fear, vulnerability, and isolation. It commonly occurs alongside other types of abuse within the home. Given that up to one third of Australian women have experienced some kind of domestic abuse in their lifetimes, it is a significant, yet often poorly discussed, issue.
What you can do
- If you are a victim of domestic abuse, or suspect that domestic or animal abuse may be occurring to someone you know:
- Speak up. Talk to family, friends, community health workers, and animal protection agencies;
- Include animals in your safety planning. Help prove ownership of your animals before you plan to leave by having them registered, and in your name. Make arrangements for accommodation of your animals with family, friends, or shelters.
- If you are involved in responses to domestic, child, or animal abuse
- Cross-report. Be conscious of any "red flags" that may indicate that abuse towards other family members or animals may be occurring. It may be appropriate to refer such cases to other agencies;
- Women's refuges and animal shelters can help to minimise the difficulty involved in leaving abusive environments by incorporating animals in their accommodation arrangements. Fear for animals' safety and lack of suitable housing can be significant reasons for people's unwillingness to leave abusive situations.