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What is the Link? 

There is an established intersection between neglect and cruelty to animals and violence and abuse towards humans, this is regularly referred to in literature and conversation as “The Link”. Acts of neglect or cruelty against animals is often a predictor of a variety of other forms of family and community violence as outlined in figure 1.

An American survey examined the cross over of human and animal abuse. The most common were being involved in animal fighting rings (30.9%) and animal sexual abuse (21.2%). Additional associated crimes were intimate partner violence (domestic abuse) (23.5%), drug dealing and possession (22.9%), illegal possession of weapons (13.5%), child or elderly abuse (10.6%), gambling (10%), physical assault (9.4%) and gang-related activities (5.9%), as well as arson, burglary and theft (2.9%).

Reference: Hoffer, T., Hargreaves-Cormany, H., Muirhead, Y., and Meloy, J.R. Violence in Animal Cruelty Offenders. New York: Springer International Publishing, 2018.

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Figure 1. The Canadian Violence Link Coalition

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The use of companion animals as a tactic of coercive controlling behaviour

In the UK, over 62% of households have a pet.1 This works out at over 17 million households with a total of 34 million domestic animals within them. Every year, 1.6 million women experience domestic abuse.2 This means that there will be significant cross-over with pets being subjected to domestic abuse.

A history of pet abuse was found to be one of the four most significant risk factors of one’s becoming a domestic abuse perpetrator3 and it is extremely common for perpetrators of domestic abuse to threaten or directly harm the pet in order to maintain power and control over the human victim survivor. Where there is domestic abuse in the household and there is a pet, it is almost certain that the pet is being impacted in some way, be that through direct physical abuse, through neglect (such as the perpetrator restricting their access to food, shelter or veterinary treatment) or emotional abuse (for example by seeing their non-abusive caregiver harmed). Research conducted by Dogs Trust found that 9 in 10 professionals working in the domestic abuse sector had seen cases where a pet has also been abused. 4

Perpetrators of domestic abuse, who have also been cruel to animals, have been found to be more controlling, dangerous, and violent, and utilise a wider range of abusive techniques than domestic abuse perpetrators who do not abuse animals. Research found that 76% of survivors whose partners had histories of pet abuse had been strangled; 26% had been raped and 80% feared that they would be killed by the perpetrator.5 Furthermore, a concerning link has been established between animal abuse and cases of physical abuse of children with research finding cross-over in 88% of cases.6

This link between human and animal violence and abuse makes it crucially important that cruelty and neglect toward animals be taken seriously by society but especially those tasked with safeguarding people and animals such as the Police, Social Services, Animal Rescue and frontline specialist support agencies. We have a moral duty to protect those most vulnerable, regardless of species.

References:

  1. Statista Research Dept, 2022

  2. ONS, 2022

  3. Walton-Moss, Manganello, Frye, & Campbell, 2005

  4. Dogs Trust, 2019

  5. Campbell, Thompson, Harris & Wiehe, 2018

  6. De Viney E., Dickert J., Lockwood R. The Care of Pets within Child Abusing Families, 1983

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