In acknowledgment of:
Prevention of Animal Cruelty Month &
Animal Cruelty/Human Violence Awareness Week
It’s not an uncommon situation. You tell someone you do volunteer work helping animals, and they say: Why are you helping animals when there are children in need? You try to explain how helping all living beings in need is important, and wish that there were some way to enlighten these folks.... to spark a philosophical, ethical, compassionate paradigm shift in them.
But now, there is proof that what we have known for so long is true: there is an undeniable link between cruelty to animals and cruelty to humans. And while the benefits of animal ownership (lowering high blood pressure, lessening stress, helping to increase exercise, etc.) can be written off by the “kids not animals” group, these facts can not.
Officially known as “The Link,” the concept of the connection between cruel behavior towards animals and cruel behavior towards humans actually goes back centuries. But within the past 30 years, researchers in the fields of psychology and psychiatry, child development, sociology, criminology, social work, and law enforcement are acknowledging, proving, and addressing this connection.
Some key aspects of The Link are:
- Children who abuse animals are often victims themselves of serious neglect and/or abuse.
- Serious animal abuse often accompanies other forms of family abuse (such as elder, child, and spouse abuse).
- In domestive violence situations, threats made or carried out by the abuser to harm a family pet often keep women in dangerous situations.
- Children who are cruel to animals have an increased likelihood of violent, anti-social behavior towards people when they become adults.
- Exposure to violence towards animals within a family desensitizes the children and diminishes their capacity for empathy, promotes fear and intimidation, and leads to a perception that physical violence in a loving relationship is normal.
Taking cruel acts by children seriously is not only important to prevent animal abuse, it’s also important for the child’s well-being, as well as society’s well being as the child matures. The growing awareness of the complexity and depth of this issue has given rise to assessment and treatment programs that offer a way to intervene earlier in the cycle of violence. Programs such as the AniCare workshops (developed by Ken Shapiro of The Animals & Society Institute) are specifically tailored to help professionals who treat and evaluate abusers (both adults and children).
Other programs that help victims have also been created thanks to the awareness of The Link. For example, many domestic violence shelters, recognizing that women may often choose to stay in a dangerous situation in order to prevent harm to their pet, are allowing pets into the shelter.
The growing number of programs (like The Link and the AniCare workshops held throughout the country) are an indicator that society is, thankfully, beginning to take animal abuse seriously.
Humans are hard wired, in most cases, to exhibit empathy—especially as children. When that isn’t the case, we have the opportunity to stop violent behavior from escalating, and posing a threat to families and society as a whole.
For More Information
Phil Arkow and Dr. Frank Ascione have done extensive work researching and sharing their knowledge on the subject. One of Dr. Ascione’s many publications on the subject is “Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, and Animal Abuse: Linking the Circles of Compassion for Prevention and Intervention,” which was co-authored by Mr. Arkow.
To read more about The Link, visit the American Humane Association’s website at http://www.americanhumane.org/interaction/support-the-bond/fact-sheets/understanding-the-link.html.
For more information on AniCare, visit The Animals & Society Institute’s website at http://www.animalsandsociety.org/resources/index.php?pid=23&tpid=7.