The public often condemns animal abuse and domestic abuse as separate issues, but there is evidence clearly linking the two. Animal Cruelty/Human Violence Awareness Week, which occurs during the third week of April, is an observance designed to help communities collectively stop violence and help the victims of abuse, both human and animal.
The Shocking Link
Just as violence against humans is a horrendous act, so is taking advantage of an innocent dog or another animal who cannot fight back. The way humans treat animals is often a testament to how they treat other humans. In fact, there are statistics that show a clear connection between animal and human abuse. According to statistics collected by North Dakotans to Stop Animal Cruelty, “Up to 75 percent of domestic violence victims report that their partners threatened or killed family pets.” The fact that the majority of homes of domestic abuse also report abuse towards animals is astonishing, leading to this next statistic: “Between 18 percent and 48 percent of battered women delay leaving abusive situations out of fear for the safety of their animals.” Oftentimes in abusive relationships, the abuser will harm or threaten to harm the victim’s pet as an act of control over the victim. Clearly then, there is a horrifying association between domestic abuse and animal cruelty, enough so that animal abuse accounts for a significant number of cases in which victims of abuse put their lives in danger to protect their beloved pets. Further, “Children exposed to domestic violence are three times more likely to be cruel to animals than children living in nonviolent households.” Violence promotes violence, whether it’s toward an animal or human being.
Signs of Abuse
There are various signs that can indicate physical or mental abuse in humans or animals. Looking out for these signs can help end the abuse and prevent future abuse from occurring.
WebMD lists some warning signs that someone you know may be a victim of domestic abuse. These include:
• Bruises such as black eyes or red or purple marks on the neck, or injuries such as sprained wrists.
• Being isolated from friends, coworkers and relatives.
• Having limited money or autonomy.
• Showing symptoms of depression such as sadness or hopelessness, or loss of interest.
Similarly, the Animal Rescue League of Boston lists signs of animal cruelty that can indicate mistreatment, neglect, or abuse:
• Persistent howling or barking for a sustained period of time.
• Wounds, unusual scars, hair loss or signs of malnourishment.
• Caged animals with minimal access to clean living areas or regular interaction with people.
How to Help
There are little things you can do to provide hope for our two- and four-legged victims of abuse. The reason for persisting abuse is often the fact that the abuse goes unreported. If you suspect signs of abuse, contact your local authorities or call an abuse hotline. Help those in abusive domestic relationships form an escape plan that protects both them and their pets. The Animal Legal Defense Fund provides additional resources for understanding and avoiding abuse, whether you’re the victim or just a bystander. Furthermore, you can thwart animal cruelty towards dogs by refusing to support puppy mills, which profit from the irresponsible breeding of puppies. Through your awareness and compassionate support, you can help save the life of an innocent animal or human being.