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Studies link animal abuse to domestic violence


Domestic violence and animal abuse are “greatly intertwined,” said Nikki Thompson, Bucks County SPCA’s chief humane society police officer, following a recent discussion on domestic violence at Delaware Valley University.

A number of studies have drawn connections between the mistreatment of animals and violence against people. A 2001-2004 Chicago Police Department report cited “a startling propensity for offenders charged with crimes against animals to commit other violent offenses toward humans.” In fact, the study said, 65 percent of those who had been arrested for animal abuse had also been arrested for battery against another person.

The study also reported that of 36 convicted murderers questioned, 46 percent admitted committing acts of animal torture as teenagers. Furthermore, of seven school shootings across the country between 1997 and 2001, all involved boys who had committed acts of cruelty, according to the findings.

The abuse of animals by children is not normal, officials agree. The National School Safety Council, the U.S. Department of Education, the American Psychological Assoc. and the National Crime Prevention Council

Thompson said her agency has also seen people target their victims’ pet as a means of hurting the human victim. “Victims often stay in (abusive) relationships because of their animals and not being able to take them when they flee,” she added.

“Unfortunately, I have seen more than a few cases of animal abuse and domestic violence,” in Bucks County, said the SPCA police officer.

It’s not uncommon for abusers to manipulate and control their human victims through threatened or actual violence against family pets, researchers have found. Between 71 percent and 83 percent of women entering domestic violence shelters said their abusive partners had also abused or killed the family animal, in an 11-city study considered to be the “gold standard” of research on the relationship between domestic violence and animal abuse.

Thompson said the Bucks County SPCA offers a SAFE hold program for animals that are part of a domestic violence situation. “With a referral from a social service agency, we are able to provide temporary housing and care for those animals,” she said.

The county’s agencies, including Central Bucks Regional Police, the Bucks County Area on Aging, Children and Youth Services and A Woman’s Place, work to coordinate efforts when combating domestic and animal abuse, said Thompson. “I would encourage the public to learn the signs of domestic violence and animal abuse and report it to the appropriate agency,” she added.

The forum was presented by the university’s graduate criminal justice program.