Pets and Children in Violence2002 In-service Marie Suthers McCabe, DVM Extension Specialist, Human-Companion Animal Interaction Center for Animal Human Relationships VA-MD Regional College of Veterinary Medicine
“Anyone who has accustomed himself (or herself) to regard the life of any living creature as worthless is in danger of arriving also to the idea of worthless human lives.”Albert Schweitzer, humanitarian
ASSUMPTION Freedom from terror is an essential component of a healthy state and a fundamental right in a free society.
ASSUMPTION • Pets are members of the family.
Links Between • DOMESTIC VIOLENCE • CHILD ABUSE • CRUELTY TO ANIMALS
Compelling evidence links people with homicidal tendencies to acts of severe animal abuse.
“While not everyone who abuses animals will become a serial killer, virtually every serial killer first abused animals…”Dr. Randall Lockwood, Vice President, The HSUS
Eric Harris & • Dylan Klebold
Physical cruelty to animalsis listed as one of the earliest symptoms indicative of Conduct Disorder. • DMS IV, American Psychiatric Association
“One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it.”Anthropologist Margaret Mead
Curiosity or exploration Peer pressure Mood enhancement Forced abuse Attachment to an animal Animal phobias Identification with the child’s abuser Posttraumatic play Imitation Self-injury Rehearsal Vehicle for emotional abuse Child and adolescent motivations for animal abuse
Animal Cruelty is one of a cluster of juvenile behaviors associated with increasingly violent behavior • FBI
“Animal cruelty is not a harmless venting of emotion in a healthy individual: this is a warning sign…” FBI Supervisory Special Agent Allen Brantley
Anti-Violence Study • 1997 • 153 subjects - committed intentional abuse against animals • 70 % - criminal records • 40% - violent crimes against people • cf 22% - control group
Someone who severely mistreats an animal is likely to Abuse a child Beat a partner
POWER & CONTROL Preying on the vulnerable
Children & Pets • Totally dependant on parents/owners • Cannot speak for themselves
Children & Pets in Families • In U.S. Households, Pets are found in: • 67.4% of households in which the youngest child is < 6 years old • In 78.7% of households in which the youngest child is > 6 years old JAVMA 1994
“The good news about human experience is that we can cope with almost anything. The bad news is that we will tolerate almost anything” James Garbarino
PETS IN CRISIS animals suffer domestic violence too
Reporting • Because a family pet may be the sentinel for other violence occurring within a home, are veterinarians morally obligated to recognize and report animal abuse?
Veterinarians do see the pets of families involved with child abuse In one study of 53 NJ pet-owning families involved with child abuse or neglect, researchers found that the use of veterinary services did not differ noticeably from acceptable standards.
Veterinarians do see the pets of families involved with child abuse In 60% of these families, pets were also abused or neglected. The percentage (88%) was even higher when physical child abuse took place (in contrast to sexual abuse or neglect). Of 23 British families who abused animals, 83% endangered their children also.
Ways a Veterinarian Might Learn of Potential Abuse: • Suspicious behavior or physical injuries • Comments by family members • Confiding • Witness
Diagnostic Features of Abuse • History • vague • implausible • the account of the incident does not fit the injury
Diagnostic Features of Abuse • Physical Signs • Fractures • Bruising • Ocular Injuries • Burns and scalds
Difficulties with Diagnosing Abuse • No published comprehensive account of the clinical signs and pathology of the “battered pet” • Emotional block • Lack of information (or misinformation) about animal cruelty • Diagnostic criteria not well established
Why Veterinarians Do Not Want to Get Involved • Afraid of being on the witness stand • Resent time in court for which they are not properly compensated (loss of income) • Offend client or lose business • Unwanted publicity
Why Veterinarians Do Not Want to Get Involved • Danger to practice • Lose contact with animal • Concerned about liability • Breaching veterinarian-client confidentiality • Ability to advocate on behalf of animal or fear animal may be euthanized as a result of report
STATE LAWS Minnesota, California, West Virginia, and Idaho are the only states that require veterinarians to report cases of animal cruelty. West Virginia and Idaho grant veterinarians immunity from liability and criminal prosecution. In Colorado and California, veterinarians are mandated reporters of child abuse, but not for animal abuse.
Taking the Issue to Court • VA - Class 1 Misdemeanor • first time offense • $1000 • up to one year in jail • second offense • if first offense resulted in death • $2500 • up to five years in jail
Keep an eye out for the most visible victims - Pets • They can lead to the hidden victims • Children • Elders • They can serve as sentinels for unhealthy home environments.
Red Light Malnourished animal may lead to malnourished children or elders. Warning sign of household that is not nurturing - or maybe that doesn’t have the resources to care for dependents.
“Social welfare officials and animal officials sometimes are working on the same case and don’t even know it.” Randall Lockwood
Many feel that animals are not as important as people and therefore do not want to spend time and resources on animal welfare issues, but it is important to realize that abused animals may lead you to abused people.
Recommendation’s Become aware of the significance of the Human-Animal Bond. Clarify and articulate your personal responsibility to both patients and clients. Take reports of cruelty to animals seriously. Do not be afraid to become involved. Participate and take leadership in community coalitions against violence.
Problem: Woman’s shelter does not allow animals
Therefore: • Some women will not leave the abuser because they fear for the pet who would be left behind • Some pets are indeed abused and even tortured, maimed and murdered by the abuser in attempt to further hurt the victim