Animal Abuse Linked to Domestic Violence
State laws often treat animal cruelty as a light offense, but there is a significant and dangerous correlation between animal abuse and domestic violence. A Northeastern University study found that almost 40% of animal abusers have committed violent crimes against others. A 1997 study by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine estimates that 36% of animal abusers have also assaulted women. In another study of battered women in a South Carolina shelter, 50% of the women reported that their abusive partner also hurt or threatened household pets. “The main reason for animal abuse within a domestic relationship is control,” says psychologist Murray J. Cohen, M.D. “Threatening, harming, and killing companion animals can powerfully demonstrate someone's power over a partner or child.” Within the past ten years, at least thirty-seven states have adopted legislation to criminalize certain forms of animal cruelty. However, most states still classify animal abuse as a misdemeanor, and impose punishments of only a few months of probation or community service. Yet considering that many of America’s serial killers including Jeffrey Dahmer and Kip Kinkel have a history of torturing animals, legislatures and law enforcement need to recognize that paying closer attention to those who commit animal cruelty could prevent other violence, especially against women.
Media Resources: First Strike Campaign; Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine; New York Times, 11/10/02.