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Is Animal Cruelty a “Red Flag” for Family Violence? Investigating Co-Occurring Violence Toward Children, Partners, and Pets

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Cross-reporting legislation, which permits child and animal welfare investigators to refer families with substantiated child maltreatment or animal cruelty for investigation by parallel agencies, has recently been adopted in several U.S. jurisdictions. The current study sheds light on the underlying assumption of these policies-that animal cruelty and family violence commonly co-occur. Exposure to family violence and animal cruelty is retrospectively assessed using a sample of 860 college students. Results suggest that animal abuse may be a red flag indicative of family violence in the home. Specifically, about 60% of participants who have witnessed or perpetrated animal cruelty as a child also report experiences with child maltreatment or domestic violence. Differential patterns of association were revealed between childhood victimization experiences and the type of animal cruelty exposure reported. This study extends current knowledge of the links between animal- and human-directed violence and provides initial support for the premise of cross-reporting legislation.
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Psychology, Department of
Faculty Publications, Department of
Psychology
University of Nebraska - Lincoln Year 
Is Animal Cruelty a “Red Flag” for
Family Violence?: Investigating
Co-Occurring Violence Toward Children,
Partners, and Pets
Sarah DeGrue
David K. DiLillo
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
University of Nebraska - Lincoln, ddilillo2@unl.edu
This paper is posted at DigitalCommons@University of Nebraska - Lincoln.
http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/psychfacpub/367
Published in Journal of Interpersonal Violence 24:6 (June 2009), pp. 1036–1056;
doi 10.1177/0886260508319362 Copyright © 2009 Sage Publications.
Used by permission. http://jiv.sagepub.com
Is Animal Cruelty a “Red Flag” for Family
Violence?: Investigating Co-Occurring
Violence Toward Children,
Partners, and Pets
Sarah DeGue
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
David DiLillo
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Abstract
Cross-reporting legislation, which permits child and animal welfare investiga-
tors to refer families with substantiated child maltreatment or animal cruelty for
investigation by parallel agencies, has recently been adopted in several U.S. ju-
risdictions. The current study sheds light on the underlying assumption of these
policies—that animal cruelty and family violence commonly co-occur. Exposure
to family violence and animal cruelty is retrospectively assessed using a sample
of 860 college students. Results suggest that animal abuse may be a red ag indic-
ative of family violence in the home. Specically, about 60% of participants who
have witnessed or perpetrated animal cruelty as a child also report experiences
with child maltreatment or domestic violence. Differential patterns of association
were revealed between childhood victimization experiences and the type of ani-
mal cruelty exposure reported. This study extends current knowledge of the links
between animal- and human-directed violence and provides initial support for
the premise of cross-reporting legislation.
Keywords: animal, child, family, abuse, violence
L
inks between animal cruelty and interpersonal violence have
been recognized throughout history (Ascione & Arkow, 1999).
Recently, legislation in several U.S. states has begun to codify collo-
quial belief in these associations through the development of man-
1036
Correspondence regarding this article should be addressed to Sarah DeGue, 445 W. 59th
Street, New York, NY 10019; e-mail: sdegue@gmail.com
Is An I m A l Cr u e l t y A red Fl A g F o r FA m I l y VI olen C e ? 1037
dated cross-reporting systems for child protection and animal welfare
agencies. Typically, such laws allow animal cruelty investigators to
refer families to child welfare services and vice versa, with the expec-
tation that homes with one type of substantiated violence will also be
at a higher risk for additional forms of victimization. As of July 2007,
nine U.S. states had signed some type of cross-reporting legislation
into law (California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Ohio, Louisi-
ana, Maine, Oregon, Tennessee, and West Virginia; Humane Society
of the United States [HSUS], 2007), and ve states had bills pending
(District of Columbia, New York, Ohio, Massachusetts, and New Jer-
sey; HSUS, n.d.-b).In addition, nine states (Maine, New York, Tennes-
see, Colorado, Indiana, Nevada, Connecticut, Vermont, and Illinois)
currently have laws permitting pets to be included in protection or-
ders for domestic violence, with similar legislation pending in three
jurisdictions (District of Columbia, California, and New Jersey; HSUS,
n.d.-a).
Despite these formal indications of support by policy makers and
advocates for a link between animal- and human-directed violence,
rigorous scientic efforts to elucidate the patterns of association be-
tween animal cruelty and interpersonal violence remain limited. Re-
search to date has focused primarily on the link between exposure to
animal abuse in childhood or adolescence (i.e., witnessing and/or per-
petration) and subsequent perpetration of adult violence (e.g., Arluke,
Levin, Luke, & Ascione, 1999; Felthous & Kellert, 1986; Hensley, Talli-
chet, & Singer, 2006; Kellert & Felthous, 1985; Peterson & Farrington,
2007; Tallichet & Hensley, 2004; Wright & Hensley, 2003). This research
was spurred by MacDonald’s (1961) early triad theory of violence (i.e.,
cruelty to animals, re-setting, and enuresis) and inclusion of animal
cruelty in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,
third edition, text revision (American Psychiatric Association, 1987) as
a symptom of conduct disorder.
In contrast, relatively few studies have directly examined the co-oc-
currence of animal abuse and violence within the family. Despite wide-
spread acceptance of the links between animal and family violence by
advocates, policy makers, and researchers (see Becker & French, 2004),
in which a substantial overlap between child abuse, domestic violence,
and cruelty to animals is assumed, little evidence exists to support this
contention (Piper & Myers, 2006). Most research has used a pairwise
approach, examining links between animal and child abuse or between
animal and partner abuse, with virtually no direct evidence regarding
the overlap among all three forms of violence. The goal of the current
investigation is to address this gap in the literature by simultaneously
1038 degu e & dI lI l l o I n Jo u rna l o f In t e r p e r s o n a l VIo l e n c e 24 (2009)
examining the co-occurrence of animal cruelty, child maltreatment, and
domestic violence.
Why does the degree of overlap matter? Researchers and advocates
point to the practical utility of using the identication of a home with
one form of violence as an indicator that other members of the house-
hold may also be at risk of victimization (e.g., Becker & French, 2004;
Boat, 1995). This premise forms the basis for cross-reporting legislation
that permits or requires child welfare and animal control investigators
(and some other related professionals) to refer families with identied
child maltreatment or animal cruelty for investigation by parallel agen-
cies. In some states, cross-reporting is extended to suspected adult vic-
tims of violence (e.g., partner abuse, elder abuse). The prospect of early
intervention (particularly for children identied as abused subsequent
to an animal cruelty investigation), or intervention in homes that may
not otherwise have been identied, is promising for child and animal
welfare advocates who seek to identify high-risk homes and prevent
(further) victimization. Although no published data have evaluated the
effectiveness of these new reporting practices, how these policies will
fare in future cost-benet analyses will likely depend on the validity
of the underlying assumption—that child maltreatment, domestic vio-
lence, and animal cruelty frequently coexist.
A Triad of Family Violence?
Recent research has provided compelling evidence that child maltreat-
ment and domestic violence commonly occur within the same house-
hold (Appel & Holden, 1998; Clemmons, DiLillo, Martinez, DeGue,
& Jeffcott, 2003; Higgens & McCabe, 2000; Saunders, 2003). As noted,
it has been suggested that these types of household violence may ex-
tend to another group of vulnerable household members—pets. For in-
stance, Lacroix (1999), citing research indicating that the vast majority
of pet owners see their animals as “members of the family,” argued that
companion animals who are abused within the home can rightfully be
considered victims of family violence. Consistent with this notion, re-
searchers have begun to explore the connection between witnessing
and/or perpetrating animal abuse, childhood maltreatment, and do-
mestic violence. The links posited by researchers and advocates tend to
fall into two related categories: (a) the co-occurrence of animal abuse,
child abuse, and domestic violence and (b) the perpetration of animal
cruelty by children who witnessed animal abuse or were themselves
abused. Current theories and evidence regarding these potential links
are reviewed below.
Is An I m A l Cr u e l t y A red Fl A g F o r FA m I l y VI olen C e ? 1039
Co-Occurrence of Animal Cruelty, Child Maltreatment, and Domestic
Violence
Animal cruelty and domestic violence. Several researchers (Ascione,
1998; Carlisle-Frank, Frank, & Nielsen, 2004; Faver & Strand, 2003;
Flynn, 2000) have assessed the co-occurrence of partner violence and
animal cruelty by asking women seeking services from domestic vio-
lence shelters about their experiences with animal abuse. Sample sizes
were small across studies, ranging from 28 (Ascione, 1998) to 41 (Fa-
ver & Strand, 2003) pet-owning women. Findings from these studies
indicated that between 46.5% and 71% of respondents reported that a
male abuser had threatened, harmed, or killed their pet, whereas be-
tween 25.5% and 57% reported that their pet had actually been injured
or killed by a partner. Although these results suggest that witnessing
violence toward pets may be a common problem for abused women,
the small sample sizes and lack of nonabused comparison groups make
generalization and interpretation of these ndings difcult.
In a recent study, Ascione et al. (2007) compared the reports of
women in domestic violence shelters (n = 101) with a nonabused com-
munity sample (n = 120) and found that women in shelters were 11
times more likely to report that their partner had hurt or killed a pet
(54% vs. 5%) and 4 times more likely to indicate that their partner had
threatened a pet (52.5% vs. 12.5%) than the comparison group. Notably,
the strongest predictors of threats toward pets in this study were the
Minor Physical Violence and Verbal Aggression subscales of the Con-
ict Tactics Scale (CTS; Straus, 1979), whereas the strongest predictor of
actual harm or killing of animals by a partner was the Severe Physical
Violence subscale of the CTS. These results suggest that the severity of
partner-perpetrated animal cruelty may increase as the severity of do-
mestic violence in the home increases. Though consistent with earlier
research, the addition of a comparison sample in this study provides
important normative data suggesting a signicantly increased risk of
experiences with animal cruelty among battered women.
Simmons and Lehmann (2007) utilizing a much larger sample of
women seeking services at an urban domestic violence shelter (N =
1,283) found that abusive males who were also cruel to animals used
more forms of violence and employed more controlling behaviors to-
ward their female victims than men who did not abuse their pets. These
ndings suggest that the presence of animal cruelty in conjunction with
domestic violence may be indicative of a particularly high-risk relation-
ship, with associated implications for the assessment and treatment of
victims and perpetrators.
1040 degu e & dI lI l l o I n Jo u rna l o f In t e r p e r s o n a l VIo l e n c e 24 (2009)
Animal cruelty and child maltreatment. An early study by DeViney,
Dickert, and Lockwood (1983) examined 53 pet-owning families being
treated by a state child welfare agency for substantiated cases of child
abuse and neglect and found evidence of the concurrent abuse or ne-
glect of a companion animal in 60% of these households. When cases
were divided by the type of child maltreatment reported, the authors
found that 80% of families with substantiated child physical abuse had
existing records of companion animal abuse versus 34% of families with
either substantiated child sexual abuse or neglect. These ndings sug-
gest that the abuse of children and animals within a home may be fairly
common and that identifying the specic type(s) of child maltreatment
experienced may be important when exploring the nature and strength
of the relationship between animal- and child-directed violence.
Miller and Knutson (1997) examined correlations between exposure
to animal cruelty (including witnessing and perpetrating animal abuse)
and retrospective reports of physical punishment and negative family
environment in childhood among 314 inmates and 308 college students.
In both samples, results pointed to signicant, although weak, corre-
lations between animal cruelty and being raised in negative or physi-
cally punitive home environments. Unfortunately, the authors neither
provided specic information regarding the proportion of overlap be-
tween childhood exposure to animal abuse and severe physical pun-
ishment nor differentiated between individuals who witnessed versus
perpetrated animal cruelty.
Animal Cruelty by Children Exposed to Family Violence
Research investigating the perpetration of animal cruelty by children
exposed to domestic violence or child maltreatment provides additional
insight regarding the overlap and potential etiological links between
these forms of violence within the home. Notably, many of these inves-
tigations (in contrast to those discussed above) have employed large,
and more representative, samples with greater potential for generaliza-
tion. For instance, Baldry (2003) found that animal-abusing youth in a
large, nonclinical Italian sample (N = 1,392) were more likely to have
witnessed animal cruelty perpetrated by their peers or parents, and
reported more overall exposure to parental violence, than their non-
abusive peers. Another study compared conduct-disordered adoles-
cent boys with and without a history of animal cruelty and found that
the animal-abusing group was more likely to report histories of phys-
ical and/or sexual abuse and exposure to domestic violence (Duncan,
Thomas, & Miller, 2005). Two studies using maternal reports on the
Is An I m A l Cr u e l t y A red Fl A g F o r FA m I l y VI olen C e ? 1041
Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) found that mothers who reported that
their children were exposed to domestic violence were also more likely
to report that their children had been cruel to animals (Currie, 2005)
and that the prevalence of cruelty to animals was ve times higher in
a sexually abused sample of children than in a nonabused sample (As-
cione, Friedrich, Heath, & Hayashi, 2003). In contrast to these ndings,
Dadds, Whiting, and Hawes (2006) found an association between ani-
mal cruelty and the presence of psychopathic (callous or unemotional)
personality traits in a nonclinical sample of adolescent boys but found
no link between animal cruelty and a general measure of family con-
ict. These authors suggested that animal cruelty may be an early man-
ifestation of conduct problems and empathic decits associated with
psychopathic personality traits, rather than the result of general exter-
nalizing or parenting problems.
Similar to Baldry (2003), Thompson and Gullone (2006) reported that
a history of witnessing animal abuse was associated with signicantly
higher levels of animal cruelty among adolescents, especially when the
abuse was perpetrated by a family member or friend (vs. stranger) and
when it was witnessed more frequently. These ndings suggest that so-
cial learning may play a role in the abuse of animals by children, par-
ticularly when these behaviors are modeled by important gures in the
children’s lives. Of course, in cases involving parental animal abuse, it
may also be that the animal cruelty exists as part of a pattern of violence
in the home and is utilized as a means of exerting control over or intim-
idating human victims of family violence. For example, reports indicate
that male batterers may threaten or actually harm family pets as a way
of controlling and manipulating female victims (Arkow, 1996; Ascione,
1999; Ascione et al., 2007; Boat, 1999; Flynn, 2000; Millikin, 1999). Sim-
ilarly, child abusers may threaten, injure, or kill animals as a means of
gaining silence or compliance from a child victim or as a threat to the
child directly (i.e.. This is what could happen to you; Boat, 1999). Thus,
animal abuse as a form of victim control may hinder the reporting of
child abuse or domestic violence occurring within the household and
delay potential intervention.
Overall, these studies point to a signicant relationship between
childhood animal cruelty and exposure to family violence as well as
between witnessing and perpetrating animal abuse. In particular, the
existing data suggest that a history of sexual abuse, exposure to do-
mestic violence, and witnessing of family members and friends en-
gaging in animal cruelty may be important correlates (and potentially
precursors) of animal abuse perpetration by children and adolescents.
Furthermore, the results of these investigations imply that when ani-
1042 degu e & dI lI l l o I n Jo u rna l o f In t e r p e r s o n a l VIo l e n c e 24 (2009)
mal abuse at the hands of children in a household is also considered,
the co-occurrence of animal- and family-directed violence may be
quite common.
The Present Study
The combined weight of the existing research provides preliminary
support for the presence of a signicant link between animal cruelty,
child abuse, and domestic violence, with evidence suggesting that an-
imal cruelty may occur more frequently in homes with child maltreat-
ment or domestic violence and that animal cruelty perpetrated by chil-
dren may be associated with exposure to family violence. Furthermore,
research suggests that the specic type or severity of family violence ex-
perienced may be important when examining the nature of the relation-
ship between animal, child, and partner abuse and that witnessing ani-
mal cruelty may be a signicant predictor of animal abuse perpetration
in childhood. However, existing data provide little information regard-
ing the rates of overlap among all three types of family violence or the
predictive value of animal abuse as a indicator of family violence (and
vice versa). In addition, with the exception of a few large-scale studies
on childhood animal cruelty, much past research has been limited by
the use of small and highly selective samples.
The present study addresses these gaps in the literature by (a) in-
vestigating the co-occurrence of child maltreatment, exposure to do-
mestic violence, and animal cruelty and (b) examining the perpetra-
tion of animal cruelty by children exposed to family violence. On the
basis of past research, we expect to identify substantial rates of over-
lap between animal cruelty and both forms of family violence. In ad-
dition, it is hypothesized that exposure to child abuse or parental
violence in the home will predict animal cruelty perpetration by chil-
dren. Furthermore, the limited existing research suggests that the link
between animal cruelty and family violence may vary by the specic
type of violence experienced. Although the literature is too sparse to
support specic hypotheses by abuse type, it is expected that a history
of physical abuse, in particular, will be associated with both witness-
ing and perpetrating animal cruelty. This study will examine several
forms of child maltreatment independently, in addition to consider-
ing overall exposure to family violence. Finally, this investigation ex-
pands on past research by utilizing a detailed, behaviorally specic
measure of family violence with a large, geographically diverse sam-
ple of college students to examine the links between multiple forms of
violence in the home.
Is An I m A l Cr u e l t y A red Fl A g F o r FA m I l y VI olen C e ? 1043
Method
Participants
The current study utilized a sample of 860 college students recruited
from three universities in the Midwest and West. More specically,
participants included students attending a private university located in
a large, urban city in California (50.8%), a public university in a mid-
sized city in Nebraska (12.7%), and a private college in a small town in
Ohio (36.5%). The majority of the participants were female (75.6%; n =
650) and White (70.1%; n = 603), although other ethnicities were also
represented in the sample (i.e., Asian, 11.2%; Hispanic/Latino, 7.1%;
Black, 4.2%). The average age of participants was 20.1 (SD = 1.72; range
= 17-37), and most had never been married (97%).The median annual
family income reported by participants while growing up was between
US$ 71,000 and US$ 80,000, although reported family incomes ranged
from less than US$ 10,000 to more than US$ 150,000. The vast major-
ity (84.9%) of participants reported that their family owned a pet while
they were growing up, whereas 72.3% indicated that animals were an
important part of their life while growing up. Participants received
credit through their psychology courses for their participation.
Measures
Participants provided demographic information and retrospective re-
ports of child maltreatment and violence in their family of origin us-
ing the Computer-Assisted Maltreatment Inventory (CAMI; DiLillo,
DeGue, Kras, & DiLoreto-Colgan, 2006; DiLillo, Fortier, et al., 2006).
The CAMI is a computer-based, self-report measure designed to assess
for a childhood history of sexual abuse, physical abuse, psychological
abuse, neglect, and exposure to domestic violence. Sexual abuse, physi-
cal abuse, and exposure to domestic violence are assessed on the CAMI
using a series of behaviorally specic screening questions, which are
followed (on one or more afrmative responses) by more detailed que-
ries regarding the nature and circumstances of the reported experiences
(see DiLillo, Fortier, et al., 2006, for further discussion of the CAMI de-
sign). In contrast, psychological abuse and neglect are assessed by the
CAMI using Likert-type scales, which ask respondents to indicate their
level of agreement with a range of statements regarding their family
and home environment while growing up. Because the CAMI is a newly
developed measure, information regarding its psychometric properties
is limited. However, available data indicate that 1- to 2-week test-retest
1044 degu e & dI lI l l o I n Jo u rna l o f In t e r p e r s o n a l VIo l e n c e 24 (2009)
reliability for the sexual and physical abuse sub-scales were .71 and .86,
respectively, with additional evidence of concurrent and convergent
validity (DiLillo, Fortier, et al., 2006).
Respondents also completed the Animal Violence Inventory (AVI), a
modied version of the Boat Inventory on Animal-Related Experiences
(Boat, 1999). Consistent with past research, participants were asked
whether they had ever (a) witnessed someone intentionally neglect,
hurt, torture, or kill an animal or (b) intentionally neglected, hurt, tor-
tured, or killed an animal themselves. Animal abuse was dened as in-
cluding the neglect of (e.g., denial of food, water, or medical treatment;
excessive connement; allowing the animal to live in lth) or intentional
iniction of physical pain or injury (e.g., beating, shooting, drowning;
making an animal ght; engaging in sexual acts with an animal) on any
household pet or wild animal. Participants were specically asked to
exclude hunting and routine farm activities. In addition to these items
assessing animal cruelty exposure, participants were asked whether (a)
animals were an important part of their life and (b) their family owned
a pet while they were growing up.
Results
Exposure to Animal Cruelty
Results indicated that 22.9% of the full sample reported some expo-
sure to animal cruelty. Less than a quarter (21.6%) of the full sample re-
ported witnessing cruelty toward animals in their lifetime, with males
more likely to witness animal abuse than females, χ
2
(1, 860) = 28.9, p <
.01. The most frequent perpetrators were friends or acquaintances, al-
though 31.1% of the witnesses saw a parent or other family member
hurt or kill an animal. Most animal abuse was witnessed during mid-
dle childhood and adolescence and involved companion animals (i.e.,
dogs, cats). The types of cruelty witnessed most often involved hitting,
beating, or kicking and throwing objects at an animal.
Only 4.3% of the full sample reported perpetrating animal cruelty,
with males signicantly more likely than females to report intentionally
neglecting, hurting, torturing, or killing an animal, χ
2
(1, 860) = 18.4, p
< .01. The majority of participants (77.8%) reported engaging in these
behaviors more than once, with almost half of perpetrators (47.4%) re-
porting that they engaged in these acts between two and ve times.
Most respondents engaged in these behaviors alone, but when others
were involved, brothers and mothers were reported most often. Partic-
ipants who reported abusing animals cited dogs and cats as their most
Is An I m A l Cr u e l t y A red Fl A g F o r FA m I l y VI olen C e ? 1045
common victims, with hitting, beating, or kicking as the primary form
of cruelty employed.
Exposure to Child Maltreatment and Domestic Violence
Nearly half (49.4%) of the full sample of college students reported expe-
riences with at least one form of family violence during childhood, in-
cluding physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect,
or witnessing of parental violence. The most common form of child-
hood maltreatment reported was physical abuse. More than one quarter
(27.2%) of respondents reported experiencing a severe form of physical
abuse by a parent on at least one occasion (i.e., hitting with a st or hard
object, kicking, throwing or knocking down, choking, intentional burn-
ing, or threatening with or using a weapon). To ensure a conservative
estimate of physical abuse, respondents were only categorized as phys-
ically abused if they had an overall severity score (based on abuse type,
frequency, and level of injury) that was greater than the mean severity
score for all respondents reporting any experience with physical punish-
ment. Thus, only cases involving relatively more severe physical abuse
were included. A history of sexual abuse was reported by 15.7% of re-
spondents and included any sexual contact under the age of 18 that was
forced with a family member (excluding sexual play or exploration with
a similar-age peer) or with someone more than 5 years older (excluding
voluntary sexual activity with a dating partner). Participants with total
scale scores one standard deviation above the mean on the physical ne-
glect (14.4%) and psychological abuse (14.5%) subscales were categorized
as experiencing these maltreatment types during childhood. Parental vio-
lence was witnessed by 17.7% of respondents overall, with 10.7% report-
ing physical abuse of their father by their mother and 14.8% reporting
physical abuse of their mother by their father. Thus, 7.8% of the sample
witnessed bidirectional domestic violence.
When analyses were limited to only severe domestic violence (in-
volving injury, 10 or more occurrences, or in which the participant was
still very bothered by the events as an adult), 11.6% of the sample was
classied as domestic violence exposed. Domestic violence is dened as
exposure to any parental violence (as opposed to only severe violence)
in all analyses below, except where explicitly specied.
Overlap Between Animal Cruelty and Family Violence
Overall rates of overlap between animal cruelty exposure (including
witnessing and/or perpetrating animal abuse), domestic violence, and
1046 degu e & dI lI l l o I n Jo u rna l o f In t e r p e r s o n a l VIo l e n c e 24 (2009)
childhood maltreatment are represented in Figure 1. In this college pop-
ulation, using retrospective self-report data, 36.2% of the sample expe-
rienced no exposure to family or animal violence, 37.2% reported ex-
posure to only one form of violence, 17.8% experienced two types of
violence, and 4.1% reported exposure to all three forms of violence.
Victims of family violence were signicantly more likely to report
experiencing animal cruelty (as a witness or perpetrator) than nonvic-
tims in this study, χ
2
(1, 860) = 7.3, p < .01, with more than a quarter of
victims (26.8%) reporting some exposure to animal abuse. Chi-square
analyses were utilized to compare rates of animal cruelty exposure be-
tween participants with no family violence history and those who expe-
rienced child abuse, domestic violence, or both child abuse and domes-
tic violence (see Figure 2). Results indicated that child abuse victims,
χ
2
(l, 860) = 8.8, p < .001, and victims of both child abuse and domes-
tic violence, χ
2
(1, 860) = 5.1, p < .01, were more likely to witness or per-
petrate animal abuse than nonvictims, although the difference did not
reach signicance for those exposed to any parental violence, χ
2
(1, 860)
= 3, ns. However, when the sample was limited to those who witnessed
severe domestic violence, rates of animal cruelty exposure were also
signicantly higher in this group, χ
2
(1, 860) = 6.5, p < .05. Notably, the
majority (73.2%) of family violence victims overall did not report any
exposure to animal abuse.
Participants who witnessed and/or perpetrated animal abuse were
also signicantly more likely to report experiencing at least one form
Figure 1. Overlap of Exposure to Child Abuse (CA), Domestic Violence (DV), and An-
imal Abuse (AA) in a College Sample. Percentages are of the full sample. AA includes
witnessing and/or perpetrating abuse. Scale of gure is approximate.
Is An I m A l Cr u e l t y A red Fl A g F o r FA m I l y VI olen C e ? 1047
of family violence than those who were not exposed to animal cruelty,
χ
2
(1, 860) = 7.3, p < .01. Notably, however, rates of family violence vic-
timization among those exposed to animal cruelty were signicantly
higher than vice versa (i.e., rates of animal abuse exposure among fam-
ily violence victims), with a majority (57.9%) of this group reporting
co-occurring family violence. Chi-square analyses were again con-
ducted to compare rates of family violence victimization between par-
ticipants who were not exposed to animal cruelty and those who wit-
nessed, perpetrated, or both witnessed and perpetrated animal abuse
(see Figure 3). Results reached statistical signicance for those individ-
uals who witnessed animal cruelty, χ
2
(l, 860) = 6.7, p = .01, indicating
that these participants were more likely to report a history of family
violence than those who did not witness animal abuse. Despite even
higher rates of victimization among animal abuse perpetrators, χ
2
(1,
860) = 2.5, ns, and combined witnesses/perpetrators of animal cruelty,
χ
2
(l, 860) = 2.8, ns, these differences did not reach the level of signi-
cance, likely due to reduced power associated with the small sample of
animal abuse perpetrators.
Further examination of animal cruelty exposure by abuse type indi-
cated that participants who witnessed animal abuse were signicantly
more likely to report a history of child physical abuse, χ
2
(1, 860) = 7.5,
p < .01, emotional abuse, χ
2
(1, 860) = 16.2, p < .01, and severe domestic
violence, χ
2
(1, 860) = 7.4, p < .01, than participants who did not witness
Figure 2. Animal Cruelty Exposure by Family Violence Victimization (%). Asterisks
indicate that rates of animal cruelty exposure (including witnessing and/or perpetrat-
ing animal abuse) were signicantly higher among those exposed to family violence
than among those not exposed to the same category of violence in chi-square analyses
(df= 1, N = 860). Categories are not mutually exclusive. * p < .05 ; ** p < . 01
1048 degu e & dI lI l l o I n Jo u rna l o f In t e r p e r s o n a l VIo l e n c e 24 (2009)
animal abuse. However, witnesses to animal cruelty were not more
likely than nonwitnesses to be victims of sexual abuse or neglect, or to
be exposed to parental violence generally.
Binary logistic regression analyses were employed to predict expo-
sure to family violence by both witnessing and perpetrating animal
cruelty in independent models. Results indicated that witnessing, χ
2
(1,
860) = 5.34, p < .05, and perpetrating, χ
2
(1, 860) = 4.47, p < .01, ani-
mal cruelty were predictive of family violence, with each increasing
the odds of child abuse or domestic violence exposure by 1.5 to 2 times
(see Table 1).
Regression analyses were also used to predict witnessing animal cru-
elty by animal abuse perpetration, four types of child maltreatment (i.e.,
sexual, physical, emotional, and neglect), and exposure to parental vio-
lence. A test of the full model versus a model with intercept only was
statistically signicant, χ
2
(6, 860) = 53.1, p < .001. Perpetrating animal
abuse and emotional abuse appeared as the only signicant predictors
of witnessing animal cruelty (see Table 1). Odds ratios indicated that
when holding the other factors constant, perpetrating animal violence
and emotional abuse increased the risk of witnessing animal abuse by
more than 8 and 2 times, respectively.
Figure 3. Family Violence Victimization by Animal Cruelty Exposure (%). Rate of fam-
ily violence exposure (including child abuse and/or domestic violence) was signi-
cantly higher among individuals who witnessed animal cruelty than among those
who did not witness animal cruelty in chi-square analyses (df = 1, N = 860). Categories
are not mutually exclusive. ** p < .01
Is An I m A l Cr u e l t y A red Fl A g F o r FA m I l y VI olen C e ? 1049
Perpetration of Animal Cruelty
Prevalence rates of animal cruelty perpetration were somewhat higher
among those who experienced at least one form of family violence as
a child than among those who did not, 5.4% versus 3.2%; χ
2
(1, 860) =
2.5, ns, although this pattern did not reach signicance. Of those partic-
ipants who engaged in animal abuse, a majority (62.2%) had also expe-
rienced child maltreatment or exposure to domestic violence. Individu-
als who reported abusing animals were more likely to report a history
of sexual abuse, χ
2
(1, 860) = 3.8, p < .05, physical abuse, χ
2
(1, 860) = 5,
p < .05, and neglect, χ
2
(1, 860) = 5, p < .05, than nonperpetrators. How-
ever, they did not differ signicantly from nonperpetrators with regard
to emotional abuse or exposure to domestic violence.
Perpetration of animal abuse was also signicantly correlated with a
history of witnessing animal abuse (r = .24, p < .001). In fact, results in-
dicated that 67.6% of animal abuse perpetrators had witnessed animal
cruelty versus 19.4% of nonperpetrators, χ
2
(1, 860) = 45.2, p < .001.
Binary logistic regression analysis was employed to predict the perpe-
tration of animal cruelty. Six predictors were entered into the model, in-
cluding witnessing animal abuse, four types of child maltreatment (i.e.,
sexual, physical, emotional, and neglect), and exposure to parental vio-
Table 1. Binary Logistic Regressions Predicting Family Violence and Animal Cruelty
Outcomes/Predictors βP SE Odds Ratio Wald Statistic
Family violence exposure
Witnessing animal cruelty 0.39 .17 1.48 5.26*
Family violence exposure
Perpetrating animal cruelty 0.75 .37 2.11 4.14*
Witnessing animal cruelty
Perpetrating animal cruelty 2.10 .37 8.22 32.8**
Sexual abuse 0.05 .24 1.05 0.04
Physical abuse 0.21 .20 1.24 1.14
Emotional abuse 0.81 .28 2.25 8.68**
Neglect –0.25 .29 0.78 0.79
Domestic violence 0.10 .23 1.10 0.18
Perpetration of animal cruelty
Witnessing animal cruelty 2.10 .37 8.15 32 4**
Sexual abuse 0.44 .43 1.55 1.05
Physical abuse 0.63 .38 1.88 2.70
Emotional abuse –0.43 .53 0.65 0.67
Neglect 0.68 .49 1.98 0.16
Domestic violence –0.05 .44 0.95 0.01
* p < .05 ; ** p < .01
1050 degu e & dI lI l l o I n Jo u rna l o f In t e r p e r s o n a l VIo l e n c e 24 (2009)
lence. A test of the full model versus a model with intercept only was sta-
tistically signicant, χ
2
(6, 860) = 48.6, p < .001. Witnessing animal abuse
appeared as the only signicant predictor of perpetrating animal cruelty
when compared with each of the family violence types assessed (see Ta-
ble 1). The odds ratio for witnessing animal abuse indicated that when
holding family violence exposure constant, the risk of animal abuse per-
petration was 8.14 times greater among those who witnessed animal cru-
elty than among those who did not.
Discussion
An examination of the overlap between animal cruelty and family vio-
lence in this college sample provides some support for the links hypoth-
esis proposed by child and animal welfare advocates, with results indi-
cating that a substantial proportion of individuals had been exposed to
multiple forms of violence in the home, including child abuse, domestic
violence, and animal cruelty. In fact, about 40% of the participants who
experienced family or animal violence were also exposed to at least one
additional type of abuse. However, the success of cross-reporting sys-
tems in correctly identifying at-risk households may depend on the type
of violence initially documented. Specically, the results suggest that ani-
mal abuse may prove a more reliable marker for other forms of family vi-
olence than vice versa. For instance, although about 60% of individuals
who witnessed or perpetrated animal abuse also experienced family vio-
lence, only about 30% of family violence victims had experienced animal
cruelty. Similarly, regression analyses pointed to both witnessing and
perpetrating animal abuse as signicant predictors of family violence,
whereas childhood emotional abuse (the form least likely to be investi-
gated by child welfare authorities) was the only type of family violence
that signicantly predicted exposure to animal abuse.
These ndings lend support to evolving practices in many jurisdic-
tions in which child welfare referrals are made in response to animal
cruelty complaints and suggest that child maltreatment or domestic vi-
olence may be present in many (perhaps even the majority) of these
homes. If one considers that only the most severe instances of animal
cruelty are likely to come to the attention of authorities (and, thus, po-
tentially the most at-risk households), it is possible that rates of concur-
rent family violence in these families may be even higher than the 60%
suggested by these ndings. These results also stress the need for pro-
fessionals in school, medical, and mental health settings to assess for
exposure to family violence when presented with a child who is report-
ing a history of witnessing or perpetrating animal cruelty.
Is An I m A l Cr u e l t y A red Fl A g F o r FA m I l y VI olen C e ? 1051
Overall, individuals who reported witnessing or perpetrating acts
of animal cruelty were more likely to have a history of family violence
than those with no exposure to animal abuse (although the small sam-
ple size may have precluded signicant ndings for perpetrators). Al-
though more data are needed to draw rm conclusions, results from
a closer examination by the type of family violence experienced sheds
some initial light on the context in which animal cruelty occurs. For
instance, as hypothesized, a strong link was identied between child
physical abuse and both witnessing and perpetrating animal abuse.
These ndings suggest that some homes may be prone to generalized
physical violence—with lines blurred between victims and perpetra-
tors. Signicant associations between physical punishment and expo-
sure to animal cruelty were also identied among college students by
Flynn (1999a, 1999b) and Miller and Knutson (1997). Furthermore, spe-
cic to witnessing animal cruelty was an increased prevalence of child-
hood emotional abuse. These ndings may point to an underlying fam-
ily dynamic in which vulnerable or dependent household members are
devalued. In addition, it may be that animal-directed violence is be-
ing used in some homes as an additional form of psychological abuse,
with the intention of intimidating, controlling, frightening, or distress-
ing children. The same tactics may explain, in part, the overall pat-
tern of overlap between child maltreatment and witnessing family vio-
lence. That is, there may be situations in which adults abuse animals to
frighten or manipulate their child victims into complying or not report-
ing their abuse, as described in anecdotal accounts (e.g., Ascione, 1999).
The link between sexual abuse and perpetration (but not witnessing) of
animal cruelty identied in this study has also been reported by other
researchers (Ascione et al., 2003; Friedrich et al., 1992; McClellan, Ad-
ams, Douglas, McCurry, & Storck, 1995). It is possible that animal cru-
elty committed by victims of sexual abuse reects a means of coping
through redirected aggression (i.e., directing abuse-related anger and
pain toward an animal). Finally, animal abuse perpetration was also
associated with higher rates of childhood neglect. Although this rela-
tionship could, as well, be the product of redirected aggression at ne-
glecting or inattentive parents, the overlap between this form of mal-
treatment and animal abuse might also reect a generalized lack of
parental supervision often associated with child neglect.
Results revealed a robust link between witnessing animal abuse and
perpetrating cruelty toward animals. In fact, regression analyses in-
dicated that witnessing animal abuse was the only signicant predic-
tor of animal cruelty perpetration in a model that included child abuse
and domestic violence exposure. Furthermore, individuals who wit-
1052 degu e & dI lI l l o I n Jo u rna l o f In t e r p e r s o n a l VIo l e n c e 24 (2009)
nessed animal cruelty were eight times more likely to be perpetrators.
The strong overlap between witnessing and perpetrating animal cru-
elty suggests that social learning may play an important role in the de-
velopment of animal abuse behaviors (Haden & Scarpa, 2005). That is,
individuals may learn these behaviors by observing their peers, fam-
ily members, or other adult abusers engaging in similar acts. When wit-
nessing interacts with a history of child maltreatment or exposure to
domestic violence, the risk of animal cruelty may increase even further.
Seemingly in contrast to the results of past research conducted in
domestic violence shelters, this study did not nd signicant relation-
ships between overall exposure to parental violence and animal cruelty.
However, when domestic violence was limited to only the most severe
cases, exposed individuals were more likely to have experienced animal
cruelty overall and, specically, to have witnessed animal abuse. These
results are consistent with the ndings of Ascione et al. (2007) suggest-
ing that severity of animal cruelty in the home is directly related to the
severity of the domestic violence experienced. It is likely that the over-
all level of violence witnessed by this college sample was less severe
than the one experienced by women entering a domestic violence shel-
ter, which in turn, resulted in a weaker relationship with animal cruelty
exposure. Thus, it may be that an important link between animal abuse
and domestic violence is present only in homes where the parental vio-
lence is particularly acute, chronic, or distressing to child witnesses.
The present study is limited by the use of retrospective self-report
data, which could result in over- or underestimates of exposure to fam-
ily and animal violence owing to intentional (e.g., social desirability) or
unintentional (e.g., forgetting) errors. Rates of exposure to animal cru-
elty in this study were somewhat lower than those reported in other
college samples using versions of the same measure (Flynn, 2000; Miller
& Knutson, 1997), suggesting that underreporting was more likely in
this sample and that the present estimates may be conservative. In ad-
dition, it was not possible to determine whether the various abuse types
occurred concurrently or whether certain experiences preceded others.
The inability to determine temporal sequencing precludes any conclu-
sions regarding causal relationships. Despite these limitations, this re-
search adds to the current literature by using behaviorally specic mea-
sures to concurrently examine child maltreatment, domestic violence,
and animal cruelty in a large, geographically diverse sample, providing
empirical data regarding the extent and nature of the links between an-
imal abuse and family violence.
Overall, the results suggest that there is a signicant overlap be-
tween these various forms of abuse within the home and that, in par-
Is An I m A l Cr u e l t y A red Fl A g F o r FA m I l y VI olen C e ? 1053
ticular, the identication of animal cruelty in a home (perpetrated by
parents or children) may serve as a reliable red ag for the presence of
child maltreatment or severe domestic violence. These ndings provide
initial support for the underlying assumptions of cross-reporting legis-
lation. However, given the limited resources available to these welfare
agencies, future research is needed that specically examines the im-
plementation and effectiveness of these policies to assess whether in-
creased attention to the link between animal- and human-directed vio-
lence results in improved intervention and prevention efforts for at-risk
families.
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Sarah DeGue, PhD, is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psy-
chology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New
York. She completed her doctorate in clinical psychology at the University of
Nebraska at Lincoln. Her research interests involve the prediction and pre-
vention of interpersonal violence, with a focus on sexual assault and family
violence.
David DiLillo, PhD, is an associate professor and Director of Clinical Training in
the Department of Psychology at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. His
research interests lie in the area of family violence, particularly the long-term
correlates of child maltreatment.
... Nine of the twenty-six studies included an examination of whether animal cruelty was associated with IPV (Ascione et al. 2007;DeGue and DiLillo 2009;Febres et al. 2014;Fitzgerald et al. 2022;Hartman et al. 2018 3 ;Hawkins et al. 2019 3 ;Matijczak et al. 2020 3 ;Murphy et al. 2022 3 ;Volant et al. 2008). Ascione et al. (2007) included reports by 121 women (101 IPV survivors receiving DV shelter services) and found that minor physical violence, verbal aggression, and the woman's level of education were associated with their partners threatening to hurt/kill pets, whereas only severe physical violence and belonging in the IPV survivor group were associated with their partner actually hurting/killing pets. ...
... Studies by Hawkins et al. (2019) 3 , Matijczak et al. (2020) 3 , and Murphy et al. (2022 3 with a sample of women recruited from domestic violence agencies in the U.S. also provide support that there is not a significant association between IPV and animal cruelty. Among retrospective reports by 860 college students, DeGue and DiLillo (2009) found that exposure to domestic violence in childhood was no longer significantly associated with the likelihood of witnessing and/or engaging in animal cruelty after adjusting for the effects of child maltreatment. Febres et al. (2014) also found that after controlling for the effects of antisocial personality disorder and alcohol use, animal cruelty was no longer associated with severe psychological aggression or physical assault. ...
... Ten of these studies provided statistics regarding the prevalence of the co-occurrence of child maltreatment and youth cruelty to animals (see Table 2). Across these samples, <1% to 80% of youth experienced child maltreatment and engaged in animal cruelty as reported by their parents (n = 2; Ascione et al. 2003;McEwen et al. 2014), service providers (n = 1; Girardi and Pozzulo 2012), youth self-reports (n = 1; Baldry 2005), retrospective selfreports (n = 2; DeGue and DiLillo 2009;Henry 2006), and case/chart reviews (n = 4; Boat et al. 2011;Bright et al. 2018;Duncan et al. 2005;Wright and Hensley 2003). Rates of cooccurring child maltreatment and youth engagement in animal cruelty were lowest when estimated by service providers (1-15%), parental reports (3.97-36%), and retrospective self-reports (2.67-19.5%). ...
Article
Full-text available
There is some evidence that family violence (intimate partner violence, child maltreatment, elder abuse) co-occurs with animal cruelty (i.e., threats to and/or actual harm of an animal), which is often referred to as “the link.” The aim of this scoping review was to systematically search the literature to determine the extent of empirical evidence that supports the co-occurrence of family violence and animal cruelty and that provides prevalence rates of the co-occurrence. We searched eight electronic databases (e.g., Academic Search Complete, PsycArticles, PubMed) for peer-reviewed articles published until September 2021. Articles were eligible for inclusion if they were written in English and included the empirical study of at least one form of family violence and animal cruelty. We identified 61 articles for inclusion. The majority of articles (n=48) focused on co-occurring IPV and animal cruelty and 20 articles examined child maltreatment and animal cruelty. No articles examining elder abuse and animal cruelty were found. Prevalence rates of “the link” ranged from <1% to >80%. Findings regarding the association between family violence and animal cruelty varied. Some studies found that family violence was significantly associated with animal cruelty (or vice versa), but there was also evidence that the association was not statistically significant. Associations between family violence and animal cruelty were not significant in most studies that adjusted for sociodemographic factors. This suggests that sociodemographic factors (e.g., exposure to multiple forms of violence, income) may explain the co-occurrence of family violence and animal cruelty. Based on the results of our scoping review, we recommend that caution should be taken regarding assertions of “the link” without further research to better understand the co-occurrence of family violence and animal cruelty and the factors and mechanisms that influence their co-occurrence.
... Pourtant, contrairement à cette idée préconçue, le bien-être animal est relié à notre culture et à la société. Les liens entre la maltraitance animale et humaine et la violence interpersonnelle ont été documentés par un certain nombre d'études de manière générale (Arluke et al., 1999;Tiplady et al., 2012) ou ciblée sur des secteurs de population particuliers tels que les enfants (Becker & French, 2004), les jeunes (Ascione, 2001) ou les familles (DeGue & DiLillo, 2009;Roguski, 2012). Ainsi, une société qui, de manière implicite, tolère la maltraitance animale est susceptible de tolérer diverses formes de maltraitances humaines. ...
Thesis
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Ce projet de thèse vise à étudier la pertinence d’utiliser la médiation équine en thérapie, auprès de personnes ayant des troubles addictifs. Dans un premier temps, il s’agira d’étudier l’influence du style d’attachement des patients sur leur niveau d’autonomie ; en s’appuyant sur des modèles théoriques tels que la théorie de l’attachement (Bowlby, 1969-82 ; Hazan, 1987) et la théorie de la motivation autonome (Decy et Ryan, 2000). Dans un deuxième temps, l’objectif sera d’explorer, de décrire et d’évaluer les processus à l’œuvre durant l’intervention à visée thérapeutique avec le cheval. Cette recherche s’inscrit dans le cadre de la compréhension et de l’évaluation des interventions complexes, axe fort de recherche du laboratoire APEMAC. Le questionnement principal de ce projet de thèse est d'interroger la place de la théorie de l’attachement dans les interventions en psychologie de la santé, notamment dans les programmes de prévention de la reconsommation et de la rechute. Quels liens la motivation et l’attachement entretiennent-ils ? En quoi les troubles de l’attachement peuvent-ils entraver le processus de guérison et la tenue de l’abstinence chez ces patients ? L’utilisation du cheval en thérapie peut-elle permettre d’augmenter le sentiment de sécurité interne des personnes et favoriser le développement de leurs compétences d’auto-régulation et de la motivation autonome ? En somme, peut-on augmenter l’autonomie des patients en leur proposant une intervention qui cible les troubles de l’attachement ? Le recueil des données sera réalisé au Centre de Soins de Suite et de Réadaptation en Addictologie « la Fontenelle ». Tout au long de cette recherche, nous prévoyons d’effectuer différentes évaluations quantitatives à l’aide d’outils psychométriques. Nous utiliserons également des méthodes qualitatives en réalisant des entretiens cliniques.
... Perpetrators of 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 (Simmons & Lehmann, 2007). AC is now viewed as a 'red flag' for abuse and physical violence toward other family members (DeGue & DiLillo, 2009;Faver & Strand, 2003), and in recent years, there have been efforts to train veterinarians to identify and report cases of suspected AC, in effort to safeguard both people and animals at-risk for abuse (Alleyne et al., 2019). Moreover, the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act (2018) recognises AC as a form of abuse and so efforts have been made to offer animal fostering services for women seeking refuge. ...
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Companion animals can both protect against, and increase risk for, coercive control and abuse, yet have not been considered in existing UK COVID-19 reports of domestic abuse (DA). This study aimed to explore the nature and frequency of animal-related calls received by UK domestic abuse helpline (DAH) staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, examine any lockdown-related changes, identify potential commonalities across helpline organisations, and explore perspectives about ongoing animal-related issues in the context of DA. Semi-structured virtual interviews were conducted with 11 DAH staff workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Data were subjected to thematic analysis. The analysis revealed four overarching themes. Theme (1) lockdown-related changes in the frequency and nature of animal-related calls received. Theme (2) animals as tools for abuse during lockdown, with subthemes (a) manipulating the family-animal bond, and (b) fears over animal safety. Theme (3) animals as barriers to refuge during lockdown, with subthemes, (a) lack of animal-friendly accommodation, (b) lack of social support systems, and (c) animals as coping mechanisms. Theme (4) helpline staffs’ awareness of and links to animal-friendly accommodation and fostering services. The findings can inform decision making regarding appropriate long-term support needs for multi-species families with complex needs, both during and post-pandemic.
... ¿Podemos considerar que una educación para la paz y la igualdad es completa si no busca también la paz para con los animales? Si, como están mostrando cada vez más estudios psicológicos y criminológicos, la violencia contra los animales aumenta el riesgo de violencia contra las personas (Ascione, 1999, DeGue, DiLillo, 2009, Flynn, 2000, Onyskiw, 2007 y se relaciona con la violencia contra las mujeres, en tanto que muchas de las víctimas de violencia de género en las relaciones afectivas de pareja sufren el abuso hacia los animales con los que conviven y a los que consideran su familia (Strand, Faver, 2005, Loring et al, 2007, será necesario entender que también los animales son víctimas (Bernuz, 2015, Loring et al, 2007 y educar en la empatía también hacia el mundo no humano. Así, se favorece una educación igualitaria y se trabaja, al mismo tiempo, por la eliminación de la violencia contra las mujeres, tal y como proponen las teóricas ecofeministas. ...
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Media portrayals of animal cruelty can shape public understanding and perception of animal welfare law. Given that animal welfare law in Australia is guided partially by ‘community expectations’, the media might indirectly be influencing recent reform efforts to amend maximum penalties in Australia, through guiding and shaping public opinion. This paper reports on Australian news articles which refer to penalties for animal cruelty published between 1 June 2019 and 1 December 2019. Using the electronic database Newsbank, a total of 71 news articles were included for thematic analysis. Three contrasting themes were identified: (1) laws are not good enough; (2) laws are improving; and (3) reforms are unnecessary. We propose a penalty reform cycle to represent the relationship between themes one and two, and ‘community expectations’. The cycle is as follows: media reports on recent amendments imply that ‘laws are improving’ (theme two). Due to a range of inherent factors in the criminal justice system, harsher sentences are not handed down by the courts, resulting in media report of ‘lenient sentencing’ (theme one). Hence, the public become displeased with the penal system, forming the ‘community expectations’, which then fuel future reform efforts. Thus, the cycle continues.
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Despite growing awareness of the psychological issues associated with childhood animal cruelty, there is a scarcity of research carried out directly with children. This study investigates the psychological factors influencing the likelihood of a child harming animals, specifically the roles of attachment, empathy, executive functioning, issues related to externalizing behavior, and Callous Unemotional (CU) traits. The sample comprised children at high risk of animal harm referred to the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal’s Animal Guardians program (n = 9) and low-risk controls (n = 18) matched for age and school class. A range of assessment techniques was used over three interview sessions for each child. Externalizing problems were measured using teacher reports; attachment was blind-coded using the Child Attachment Play Assessment; executive functioning was assessed using a Dimensional Change Card Sort (DCCS); and empathy was measured using self-report and picture-based tasks, the Kids Empathy Development Scale. Children at high risk of animal harm were more likely to be insecurely attached (p = 0.002), scored significantly higher on Strengths and Difficulties (U = 1.5, p < 0.001) and CU traits (U = 6.4, p = 0.001) as rated by their teachers, scored lower on cognitive empathy (U = 36.5, p = 0.043), and performed more poorly on the DCCS test of executive functioning (U = 31.0, p = 0.014). No significant differences were found between high-risk and low-risk children on self-reported empathy or emotion recognition. We also found that insecure attachment was related to an increased score for many psychological risk factors. This exploratory study demonstrates that childhood animal harm can act as an indicator of a range of psychological issues and highlights the importance of designing appropriate interventions for this vulnerable population.
Preprint
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In response to the novel Coronavirus of 2020 the county of Dallas, Texas ordered residents to shelter in place for 52 days. During the pandemic reports of domestic violence increased across the US as victims were forced to remain home with their abusers. Using daily reports of domestic violence and pet adoptions, surrenders, and fosters in Dallas, TX, we find an increase in domestic violence during shelter in place orders and identify the outflow for pets from the home as a trigger for this increase. As animals are surrendered to shelters in-home violence decreases, while violence increases during the shelter in place order– specifically when pets are confiscated from the home. Our results align with family violence literature by identifying a victim’s dependents as a main deterrent to escape. If more women’s shelters accommodated pets, victims would leave their abusers sooner. Any policy intended to decrease family violence ought to include animal shelters, women’s shelters, and police departments. Together, these offices can identify potential abusers, decrease in-home violence, and ensure the safety of families and pets. JEL Codes: K0, D1, I1
Conference Paper
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The following work presents a research experience, which was torn with a teaching group from the Social Studies and Civic Education Teaching.It was executed at the National University of Costa Rica, as an initiative since the aforementioned career accreditation. This teaching staff worked with the digital knowledge of their discipline, which allowed them to learn about different proposals for the use of technology and to reflect theoretically on the meaning of incorporating them in the educational context.This proposal was developed in a workshop format, where a series of tools were used, with the objective that the participants develop their own mediation activities in their different educational contexts, basing on innovative approaches from active learning.
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Animal cruelty has received growing scholarly attention over the past few decades. One ongoing challenge for researchers has been the lack of readily accessible data. This situation changed in 2014 with the addition of animal cruelty offenses to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program as part of its National Incident-Based Reporting System. In addition to providing a much-needed source of animal cruelty information, these data shed light on two distinct forms of cruelty: intentional animal abuse and neglect. Previous research tended to group both forms of cruelty together, which limited the ability of these findings to inform the development of targeted prevention and intervention policies. The present study is one of the first to examine the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s animal cruelty data and to distinguish between neglect and intentional cruelty. The findings obtained are discussed in terms of application to policy and guidance for future work.
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For years now, the importance of animal cruelty has been gaining recognition in the industrialized cities of the West. Animal cruelty encompasses any act that causes a non-human animal unnecessary pain or suffering, including negligence, abandonment, abuse, torture, bestiality, and even theriocide. This represents a red flag for society as a whole because people who commit such acts can escalate violence and direct it to other individuals. Animal cruelty and interpersonal violence—as well as other socially undesirable conduct such as bullying, antisocial personality disorder, rape, and serial murder—are closely related, so timely diagnoses of either one can help prevent acts of aggression. It is necessary, therefore, to analyze and try to understand whether there are early indicators that may help identify potentially violent individuals. It is well known that kids from homes with actual violence in their homes show a high tendency to reproduce such behaviors with both animals and other people. In conclusion, much research and rethinking of the importance of the veterinarian in detecting animal abuse and cruelty is needed to help detect and prevent cases of interpersonal violence that may arise over time.
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Multi-type maltreatment refers to the experience of more than one form of child maltreatment (sexual abuse, physical abuse, psychological maltreatment, neglect and witnessing family violence). Researchers have largely ignored the presence of other types of child abuse and neglect when examining the adjustment problems associated with a particular form of maltreatment. The association between ‘multi-type maltreatment’ and adjustment was explored in the current study. Retrospective data were obtained on (a) the degree to which maltreatment types co-occurred, (b) childhood family characteristics and (c) adjustment problems in adulthood in an Australian self-selected community sample (N=175). As hypothesized, a large degree of overlap was reported in the experience of the five types of maltreatment. Family characteristics—particularly family cohesion and adaptability—discriminated between respondents reporting single-type and multi-type maltreatment. Greater adjustment problems were associated with reports of a larger number of different maltreatment types. Multi-type maltreatment should be recognized as a crucial aspect of the nature and impact of child maltreatment and considered in the development of programmes for the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect. Copyright © 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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Results from this study challenge the assumption that animal abusers commonly “graduate” from violence against animals to violence against humans. The criminal records of 153 animal abusers and 153 control participants were tracked and compared. Animal abusers were more likely than control participants to be interpersonally violent, but they also were more likely to commit property offenses, drug offenses, and public disorder offenses. Thus, there was an association between animal abuse and a variety of antisocial behaviors, but not violence alone. Moreover, when the time order between official records of animal abuse and interpersonal violence was examined, animal abuse was no more likely to precede than follow violent offenses. Although these findings dispute the assumption that animal abuse inevitably leads to violence toward humans, they point to an association between animal abuse and a host of antisocial behaviors, including violence. Also discussed are the methodological problems of demonstrating sequential temporal relations between animal abuse and other antisocial behaviors.
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This paper examines the relationship between childhood cruelty toward animals and aggressive behavior among criminals and noncriminals in adulthood. Data were derived from personal interviews with 152 criminals and noncriminals in Kansas and Connecticut. A standardized, closed, and open-ended interview, requiring approximately 1-2 hours to complete, was administered to all subjects. Aggressiveness was defined by behavioral criteria rather than by reason for incarceration. Childhood cruelty toward animals occurred to a significantly greater degree among aggressive criminals than among nonaggressive criminals or noncriminals. Additionally, the occurrence of more than 40 cases of extreme animal crielty facilitated the development of a preliminary classification of nine distinct motivations for animal cruelty. Finally, family violence, particularly paternal abuse and alcoholism, were significantly more common among aggressive criminals with a history of childhood cruelty toward animals.
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The link between interpersonal violence and violence to animals has been suggested, but rarely studied empirically, especially by family scholars. This study of 267 college undergraduates examined the relationship between corporal punishment inflicted by parents and the perpetration of animal abuse. The findings revealed that males who committed animal cruelty in childhood or adolescence were physically punished more frequently by their fathers, both as preteens and teenagers, than males who did not perpetrate animal abuse. This relationship did not hold for males spanked by mothers or for females spanked by either parent. Regression analyses showed that the association between fathers' corporal punishment and sons' childhood animal cruelty persisted after controlling for child abuse, father-to-mother violence, and father's education. The implications of the association of animal abuse and family violence and its gendered nature are discussed.
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The association between violence to children and violence to animals remains largely unacknowledged in the child abuse/neglect arena. Several reasons justifying further exploration of this link are discussed, along with suggestions for enhancing our awareness, knowledge, and services.
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Studies demonstrating the potential link between childhood and adolescent acts of animal cruelty and later interpersonal violence toward humans remain ambiguous. Unfortunately, most of the research examining this possible link has failed to investigate repeated acts of animal cruelty or recurrent acts of violence toward humans. Using a sample of 261 inmates surveyed at medium and maximum security prisons in a southem state, this article examines how demographic attributes, childhood and adolescent characteristics, and repeated acts of cruelty toward animals impacted recurrent acts of interpersonal violence during adulthood. Respondents who had more siblings and who had committed repeated acts of animal cruelty were more likely to have engaged in recurrent acts of interpersonal violence, showing a possible link between recurrent acts of childhood and adolescent animal cruelty and subsequent violent crime.
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Although comprehensive studies examining a variety of violence types and potential outcomes are becoming more common, there continues to be an overreliance on relatively simple, single violence type, criterion group comparisons. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of what is known about different forms of childhood violence, the many potential outcomes that have been shown to be related to a history of violence in childhood, and emerging research on mediators and moderators makes conducting comprehensive research a significant theoretical and technical challenge. Complicating this situation is that vertically organized and isolated professional fields of study and practice have emerged around specific types of childhood violence and outcomes, making cross-fertilization of ideas and methods difficult. Suggestions concerning theory, methods, and professional integration are offered to promote more integration of the field of childhood violence.