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Building Healthy Links

The Link - Animal Cruelty
The Link Between Animal Abuse and Human Violence in San Bernardino County


Over the ages and in all cultures, animals have been woven into the basic fabric of our community and lives. Over 63% of households in the United States currently have at least one companion animal (APPMA National Pet Owners Survey - 2007-2008) Research supports the notion that healthy human and animal relationships enhance physical and psychological health and teach us how to understand another being and how to express compassion, empathy, and nurturance.

Unfortunately, though animals are valued, protected, and cared for by some; the abuse of animals is committed by others. Some scholars suggest that an individual’s mistreatment of an animal parallels unhealthy, and sometimes, even violent, relationships with other humans.

What is the Link?

For the past several decades, there has been documentation of a link with domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse and animal abuse.

Domestic Violence is a pattern of behavior used to establish power and control over a household member through fear and intimidation often using threats and violence. Often, companion animals are caught in the cycle of family violence. Among those patterns of perpetrators that commit violent acts against their partners and/or family is the incidence of animal maltreatment and abuse (harming, killing, or threatening them).

It has been documented that many women will hesitate leaving an abusive partner because the animals have been threatened with harm. In some cases, it is not uncommon to see children defend or attempt to protect family members or their companion animals by intervening in domestic disputes, thus placing the children in greater danger.

Animal abuse in the home has also been an indicator of potential child abuse. "Animal cruelty committed by any member of a family, whether parent or child, often means child abuse occurs in that family" (Ward, 2008). There is a family violence cycle: if the family animals are being abused, often the children are being abused and if child abuse is occurring, the family animals may also be abused. Lastly, the link between animal abuse and abuse of the elderly is also emerging.

Studies suggest that abuse in the elderly population may be at the hands of those individuals who also abuse animals. The relationship between animals and elderly persons may be quite special as it represents companionship, comfort, humor, and attention. Considering this strong bond, elderly persons' pets are more vulnerable to abuse if the perpetrator wants to exert control over the elderly person in some way.

Report all forms of abuse: If you see or suspect child abuse, elder abuse, domestic violence or animal abuse, REPORT IT. Call your local police department, child protection agency or animal control agency with your concerns. There are a number of reasons why people don't want to report. Apart from not wanting to get involved, believing that the report will do no good, or being afraid of retaliation. Despite these fears and concerns, you may be the only help a victim of abuse can rely upon for their ultimate wellbeing and safety.

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It is the mission of the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office to represent the interests of the people in the criminal justice system, as mandated by California State law. The San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office serves the residents of San Bernardino County by: seeking the truth, protecting the innocent; holding the guilty accountable; preserving the dignity of victims and their families; and, ensuring that justice is done while always maintaining the highest ethical standards.

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