Animal Abuse: An Indication of Domestic Violence
Profiling Abusers and Types of Abuse
There is a strong body of evidence available that supports the premise that children and teens who participate in the intentional abuse of animals often mature into adults who commit extreme acts of violence towards their family, intimate partners, or community members at large.
Animals have long been the silent victims of the disturbed. Cruel and abusive behavior towards animals usually emerges during adolescence, but can present at a much earlier age. It may involve beating, mutilation or poisoning, torture or suffocation, or training animals to fight each other to the death, and killing them for failing to do so.
Such behavior should never be considered a simple stage of childhood development that will pass in time. The American Psychiatric Association considers animal cruelty a dangerous precursor to a number of violent conduct disorders seen in adult humans. Its existence should always be promptly reported to authorities.
Statistics in the United States show that 85% of women and 63% of children entering shelters owned pets that were being abused. It is shocking to note that 32% of the pet-owning victims of domestic violence reported that one or more of their children had hurt or killed a pet.
Such behavior develops gradually making it difficult to recognize at first. Abusers are generally sociopaths able to present themselves as engaging, interesting, and intelligent individuals or pleasant neighbors whom no one would ever suspect of such horrific behavior. Initially, pets may turn up repeatedly injured for no good reason, or they may disappear without a trace. The individual will eventually turn his/her violent behavior towards a partner, a family member, or random people in the community. In a domestic setting, full-blown battering and domestic violence will emerge over time.
In a large metropolitan area where we often do not have the mixed blessing of knowing a person’s family history, one subtle indicator to the essence of a new friend could be that person’s reaction to domestic or wild animals over a period of time. It is an easy observation to make, and it could save your life or the life of a beloved pet.
Other types of animal abuse are motivated by people’s ignorance of the needs of a pet, resulting in neglect. These are not willfully malicious or deliberate acts. Under these circumstances, an animal may suffer cruel treatment, but education of the owner can usually alleviate the problem. Examples of such neglect include: leaving an animal tied outside without adequate food, clean water, or appropriate shelter, especially during inclement weather; leaving pets inside a locked car anytime, but especially when temperatures are extreme; failure to supply pets with proper amounts of food and clean water, as well as failure to supply veterinary health care and proper vaccinations. Puppy mills, the hoarding of animals, and laboratory testing on animals often results in additional forms of abuse, though no correlation exists between behavior of this type and human violence towards others.