Abuse happens because a person wants to feel power over another being. Abusers typically start with something they can easily control, such as a family pet. But sadly the pet will not be the only victim.
Children’s advocates, social service workers, and mental health professionals all recognize a connection between animal abuse and child abuse. And so does law enforcement. In the FBI’s annual Crime in the United States report issued in February 2016, animal abuse was added to its listings of criminal acts because of its relation to more serious crimes.
The National Sheriffs’ Association has long cited the connection between animal abuse and other crimes. “If somebody is harming an animal, there is a good chance they also are hurting a human,” said John Thompson, the association’s deputy executive director. “If we see patterns of animal abuse, the odds are that something else is going on.”
In a 2015 report titled The Connection Between Animal Abuse and Human Violence, Dr. Harold Hovel concludes, “Animal cruelty is linked directly or indirectly with every type of violent crime and even with most non-violent crime. When we see indications of animal abuse, it should send up red flares. What else is going on? Who else is being abused?”
In 53 families with some form of reported child abuse, 60 percent also had animal abuse occurring. That rose to 80 percent in households where the child was being physically abused. The yearly average (compiled over 20 years) for abused children in the United States is a staggering 2.7 million, with serious injury to 160,000 and 2,000 deaths. Additionally, the report states that besides the physical and emotional cost of child abuse, there is an economic cost per year of approximately $124 million.
Sadly, when animal abuse is present in a home, not only are children in danger of being abused, they are in danger of becoming abusers too. According to Dr. Hovel’s report, children who are repeatedly exposed to physical or sexual abuse or neglect are seven to nine times more likely to become animal abusers themselves and are statistically likely to abuse their own children in the future. Animal abuse in children is also a strong indicator of future violent acts, as seen in the case of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the Columbine School shooters.
Because the incidence of animal abuse is a red flag for a child or family in danger, it’s essential to know the warning signs. You’ll find a list of physical and environmental signs of cruelty on the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals website.
Keep an eye out for animal abuse—you may help save a child.