American Humane Association
Understanding the Link Between
Animal Abuse and Family Violence
What is the Link?
A correlation between animal abuse, family violence, and other
forms of community violence has been established.
Child and animal protection professionals have recognized this
Link, noting that abuse of both children and animals is connected in a self-perpetuating
cycle of violence.
When animals in a home are abused or neglected, it is a warning
sign that others in the household may not be safe. In addition, children who
witness animal abuse are at a greater risk of becoming abusers themselves.
How serious is it?
A survey of pet-owning families with substantiated child abuse
and neglect found that animals were abused in 88% of homes where child physical
abuse was present (DeViney, Dickert, & Lockwood, 1983). A study of women
seeking shelter at a safe house showed that 71% of those having pets affirmed that their partner had threatened, hurt, or killed their
companion animals, and 32% of mothers reported that their children had hurt or
killed their pets (Ascione, 1998).
Still another study showed that violent offenders incarcerated in
a maximum-security prison were significantly more likely than nonviolent offenders
to have committed childhood acts of cruelty toward pets (Merz-Perez, Heide, &
What’s being done?
In many communities, human services, animal services, and
law enforcement agencies are sharing resources and expertise to address violence.
Professionals are beginning to engage in cross-training and cross-reporting through
interagency partnerships, and humane societies are teaming with
domestic violence shelters to provide emergency shelter for pets of domestic
In addition, some states have strengthened their animal-cruelty legislation
and taken other measures to address the Link. These state-level actions permit
earlier intervention and send a clear message that all forms of violence are
• There are now felony-level penalties for animal cruelty
in nearly all states.
• Several states require veterinarians to report suspected
animal abuse and offer veterinarians who report cruelty
immunity from civil and criminal liability.
• Some states require animal control officers to report
suspected child abuse or neglect and receive training in
recognizing and reporting child abuse and neglect.
• A few states permit child and adult protection workers to
report suspected animal abuse or receive training on
identifying and reporting animal cruelty, abuse, and neglect.
• Nearly half the states call for psychological counseling for
individuals convicted of animal cruelty.
Where does American Humane stand?
American Humane has been working to protect children and
animals since 1877. For more than a decade, American Humane has been educating
both the general public and professionals about the Link between violence to
people and animals by:
• Facilitating workshops to educate the public and build collaboration among human service, animal protection, public
safety, and law enforcement professionals;
• Administering the National Resource Center on the Link® providing professional training at national
conferences, and publishing resources and training guides;
• Helping pass animal cruelty legislation, drafting cross-reporting
legislation, and testifying at both state and national
• Contributing to the understanding of the Link through research on animal cruelty, its treatment in the criminal justice
system, and detection by veterinarians.
Page 1 © 2003 American Humane Association
• Cross-training and cross-reporting among law enforcement officers, humane investigators, veterinarians, health professionals,
domestic violence advocates, and child protection workers;
• Training and continuing education about the Link for judges and prosecutors;
• Model legislation for cross-reporting and cross-reporting standards;
• Systematic tracking of national animal abuse data;
• Expanded research about the Link, including evaluation of prevention and intervention approaches;
• Inclusion of animal-focused violence in standard assessments
and intake forms for child protective services, mental health, and domestic violence
• Community partnerships to respond to family violence and educate the public about taking all acts of violence seriously.
American Humane’s National Resource Center on the Link.www.americanhumane.org or (877) 546-5222.
Ascione, F. R. (2001). Animal abuse and youth violence.
OJJDP Juvenile Justice Bulletin, September
Ascione, F. R., & Arkow, P. (Eds.). (1999). Child
abuse, domestic violence, and animal abuse: Linking the circles of compassion
for prevention and intervention.
West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press.
Barnard, S. (1999). Taking animal abuse seriously: A huma services
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and intervention (pp. 101-108). West
Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press.
Boat, B. W. (1999). Abuse of children and abuse of animals: Using
the links to inform child assessment and protection.
In F. R. Ascione & P. Arkow (Eds.), Child
abuse, domesticviolence, and animal abuse: Linking the circles of compassion
for prevention and intervention (pp.
83-100). West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press.
Lockwood, R. & Ascione, F. R. (Eds.). (1998). Cruelty
to animals and interpersonal violence: Readings in research and
application. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press.
PSYETA AniCare and AniCare Child models of treatment of animal
Ascione, F. R. (1998). Battered women’s reports of their partners’
and their children’s cruelty to animals. Journal of
Emotional Abuse, 1(1), 119-133.
Merz-Perez, L., Heide, K. M., & Silverman, I. J. (2001).
Childhood cruelty to animals and subsequent violence against
humans. International Journal of Offender
Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 45(5),
American Humane is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the mission of protecting
children and animals from abuse, neglect, and exploitation.