Unfortunately, there is a “dark side” to the human-animal bond — animal cruelty, abuse and neglect. In recent years, these have come to be recognized not only as issues affecting animal welfare, but also human health and safety as well. Overwhelming scientific research has demonstrated the close relationship between animal cruelty crimes and other types of crimes, particularly family violence and the related criminal activities that often accompany animal fighting and animal sexual abuse. Until recently, violence towards children, the elderly, and domestic violence had been considered wholly separate from violence towards animals. Today, we know that what is called “The Link” is real and that animal abuse often indicates and predicts other forms of family and community violence. Mistreating animals is no longer seen as an isolated incident that can be ignored: it is a “red flag” warning sign that other family members in the household may not be safe.
While awareness of these connections is not new (SPCAs started the child protection movement 150 years ago), the multi-disciplinary effort to form a more humane society is. The National Link Coalition, which is the National Resource Center on The Link between Animal Abuse and Human Violence, is building multi-disciplinary community collaborations that address the prevention, identification, intervention, prosecution, and treatment of linked forms of family violence. Law enforcement and prosecutors’ offices are targeting animal cruelty with specialized, dedicated investigators and prosecution teams. Veterinary forensics has become a specialty practice to enable cruelty cases to proceed through courts with valid evidence. Animal care and control, veterinary, child protection, domestic violence and adult protective services agencies are working together to:
- cross-train their caseworkers to recognize and cross-report multiple forms of family violence
- provide pet safekeeping for the animal survivors of domestic violence
- increase animal abuse penalties
- educate communities about all forms of family violence