Link between abuse of animals and abuse of people

There is a connection between the abuse of animals and the abuse of people. Law enforcement and social workers are working together to combat abuse.
By Barbara Williamson

The new humane movement "already gets the connection" between abuse of animals and abuse of people, but now the social workers and police officers on the front lines of breaking the cycle of domestic violence are learning about this link as well.

Law enforcement and social workers come together

Dr. Christina Risley-Curtiss, an associate professor of social work at Arizona State University, spearheaded a recent conference in Phoenix, Arizona which brought together law enforcement people with social workers and educators. About 90 people attended, including Best Friends’ Cathie Myers who is director of humane education at the sanctuary.

After the conference, Dr. Christina came to the sanctuary for a visit. "Those of you in animal welfare already understand how violence against animals leads to violence against people. My profession is just on the cusp of understanding this."

The Humane Link advocacy group

Christina said the conference was the brainchild of The Humane Link, an advocacy group of animal welfare and social service agencies that she chairs.

"Our purpose is two-fold: we want to get better prosecution of animal cruelty and to help prosecutors build better cases. So we need police officers working more effectively with social workers and prosecutors. In addition, we want to get mandated treatment for animal abusers," Dr. Christina said.

Cathie said her "ah-ha" moment during the conference was "when I realized 95 percent of animal cruelty investigations involve neglect; the other 5 percent is people actively harming animals or hoarding. You can see how intentional cruelty escalates into violence. How animals are treated within a family is an indicator of family health."

Dr. Christina said her personal passion for animals is " my genes. My father and grandfather were both veterinarians. My goal is to get the animal/human relationship into social work research, practice and education. Every one who attended the conference said they would go to another one; we are off to a good start."

Read more about animal cruelty in the Best Friends' resource section.