This is a big subject. It is widely agreed that animal abuse is linked to domestic violence. There can be a pecking order of violence in a family downwards from the father to the mother and the child to the companion animal; the child having learned from his parents. Animal abuse is quite a complicated subject but at a simplistic level, for me, animal abuse is often due to a person expressing anger and frustration through an act of violence. The violence is often conveniently directed at the most vulnerable object; the companion, stray or feral animal. Violence against children by a parent is similar to violence directed at an animal by parents. Both victims are easy targets and vulnerable.
The person expressing anger through violence wants an easy target, a target with the least resistance so his/her violence can proceed without hindrance. It is a form of bullying. Animal abuse in the family can be a way to control the family through fear. It can be effective as women who are victims of domestic violence often keep quiet for a considerable time in order to protect their companion animal.
You might argue that abuse and cruelty directed at companion animals is a measure of the dysfunctionality of some families and communities or societies as it is a physical expression of the dysfunctional nature of these groups when measured against what we expect a civilised society should be.
Rather than write about the difficult issues surrounding animal abuse which have been well covered elsewhere, I’d like to see if I can dig into the internet and find some statistics and “facts” from scientific studies, which should be reasonably reliable sources of information. I use Google Scholar to find these studies. Note: I am not looking for USA studies. I am looking for any studies but there are more USA studies on this subject.
Massachusetts, USA 1975-1996
This concerns criminal prosecutions for animal cruelty made by the Massachusetts Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
- most common target: dogs.
- “owned” (as opposed to stray etc.) dogs and cats represent the vast majority of victims of animal abuse.
- most common complainant: women.
- most common perpetrator of animal abuse and cruelty: nearly always young males.
- most common form of animal cruelty: beaten, stabbed, shot, or thrown.
- dogs are more commonly abused by adults (as opposed to minors).
- percentage of animal abusers who were convicted in the criminal court: less than 50%.
- percentage convicted animal abusers fined as a sentence: 33%.
- percentage convicted animal abusers ordered to pay restitution: 25%.
- percentage put on probation: 20%.
- percentage jailed: 10%.
- percentage ordered to be treated through counselling services: less than 10%.
- percentage ordered to serve community service: less than 10%.
Authors: Arluke, Arnold; Luke, Carter
- Percentage of youths (aged 9-17) who had abused animals in some way: 50%.
- Are boys more likely to abuse animals than girls? Answer: Yes.
- Percentage of youths exposed to violence by father to mother or mother to father: Almost 50%.
- The strongest “predicting variable” (most common factor) for animal abuse is an exposure to (seeing and being part of) violence against animals by “peers and by mothers”.
Author: Anna C. Baldy – University of Rome “La Sapienza”
Concerns a sample of 169 college students. One finding was that students who observed animal cruelty or participated in it reported higher scores in respect of delinquency than students who had never been involved in animal cruelty or observed it.
Author: Bill C. Henry
Sample of 38 battered women.
- Percentage of battered women who said their partner had threatened and/or injured or killed a pet or pets: 71%
- Percentage of cases where pet suffered actual harm: 57%
- Percentage of women of this sample who had children: 58%
- Of the above 58% of women who had children, 32% said that the ‘one or more’ of their children had killed or hurt a companion animal.
- Of the above 58% of women who had children 71% said their partner had committed actual animal abuse or threatened it.
Author: Frank R. Ascione PhD
Progression from animal abuse and cruelty to human-to-human violence should be discussed in relation to:
- the personal experiences of each individual involved in this sort of violence (as referred to in the studies above on this page) and;
- ” institutionalized social practices” in which animal cruelty is routine and usual.
My note: this is a very important point. In some communities or societies animal cruelty is accepted almost as a norm. The practice is normalised and no longer considered bad.
Author: P. Beirne
Sample: 281 people aged 12-18 years.
- witnessing animal abuse is associated with doing animal abuse.
- where a parent or relative committed animal cruelty and this was witnessed by the youth he or she was more likely to commit animal cruelty than if he had observed a stranger committing animal cruelty.
- the more animal cruelty you see the more often you will commit it yourself.
- observing animal cruelty does not lead to humane acts towards animals by the observer.
Authors: Thompson, Kelly L.; Gullone, Eleonora
The role of veterinarians in reporting animal cruelty.
Bearing in mind that companion animal abuse can indicate interpersonal abuse within families, a veterinarian has a potential role to play to protect animals, children and spouses from family violence. In some respects the vet might be the first place where signs of family violence are spotted.
This study concluded that, perhaps understandably, vets under-report cases of potential animal violence for the following reasons:
- lack of training – not sure about spotting the signs.
- unwilling to intervene – not their job.
- frightened of losing business.
- unsure about reporting process.
- lack to time.
- frightened they will make things worse.
- frightened they will be sued.
It would seem that vets could do more with better training and systems.
Conclusion: Over and over again we seem to be forced back to the core issues as the only long term solution to problems concerning animal welfare such as cat cruelty and cat abandonment, declawing etc.. It does not matter what form the animal abuse is, the answer lies in education, excellent parenting and a harmonious family life. The cycle of dysfunctionality in some segments of society needs to be broken for the sake of our companion animals.
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