Why pet abuse may be a sign of domestic violence and other abuse, medical experts say
The American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics both encourage their members to pay attention to the links between child abuse, domestic violence and harm done to family pets. Any of those forms of harm can be a harbinger of harm to the others, as well.
Dr. Tara L. Harris warned of the crosslinks this week in an AAP blog called “pet abuse should raise concerns for physical, emotional safety of children.” Harris writes for the academy on the topic of child abuse and neglect.
“When a pediatrician is told of threatened harm or abuse of a pet, it may not be obvious immediately that this is a concern to prioritize,” the pediatrician wrote. “However, a growing body of research is revealing the worrisome implications for children in homes where a pet has been abused.”
Potential links between domestic violence, child abuse and animal abuse move in multiple directions. For example, John Pepitone for Fox4 in Kansas City reported recently that “some believe breaking the cycle of domestic abuse may start with identifying animal cruelty among adolescents.”
Pepitone cited experts who said that “children who witness animal abuse are more than eight times more likely to commit a domestic violence crime as adults.”
But there’s also reason to believe that households where domestic violence and child abuse occur often also include family pets as victims. Someone may beat a romantic partner and kick the family dog, for instance, as was recently reported by WOWT in Omaha.
Lawmakers in Coventry, Rhode Island, are pushing for legislation that would mandate cross-reporting of child abuse and animal abuse.
Writes Margo Sullivan for Patch Media, “Everybody knows where there’s smoke there’s fire, but what signs predict child abuse or domestic violence? Although there aren’t any infallible ones, there is a strong correlation between animal cruelty and violence against people, according to House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan (R-District 26, Coventry, Warwick, West Warwick).”
Citing strong evidence linking child abuse and animal abuse, Morgan is pushing for “a mandatory cross-reporting system, so humane societies, child welfare agencies and law enforcement can share information.”
4comments on this storyThe veterinary medical group has for some time kept track of which states require cross-reporting of child abuse and animal abuse. In 2014, the list included California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. Each had some rule about cross-reporting those crimes. Most other states have separate statutes regarding child abuse reporting and animal abuse reporting.
Utah, for instance, has mandatory child abuse reporting laws. But the states have vastly different laws governing animal abuse. Some states are relatively silent on the topic. Others are more specific. For example, Henry’s Law makes torture of dogs and cats a felony in Utah.
The dog who inspired the law was tortured by a man who was jealous of his wife’s pet.