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Pets and Children in Violence 2002 In-service. Marie Suthers McCabe, DVM Extension Specialist, Human-Companion Animal Interaction Center for Animal Human Relationships VA-MD Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.

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pets and children in violence 2002 in service

Pets and Children in Violence2002 In-service

Marie Suthers McCabe, DVM

Extension Specialist,

Human-Companion Animal Interaction

Center for Animal Human Relationships

VA-MD Regional College of Veterinary Medicine

“Anyone who has accustomed himself (or herself) to regard the life of any living creature as worthless is in danger of arriving also to the idea of worthless human lives.”Albert Schweitzer, humanitarian

Freedom from terror is an essential

component of a healthy state and a

fundamental right in a free society.

  • Pets are members of the family.
links between
Links Between
Compelling evidence links people

with homicidal tendencies to

acts of severe animal abuse.

“While not everyone who abuses animals will become a serial killer, virtually every serial killer first abused animals…”Dr. Randall Lockwood, Vice President, The HSUS
Eric Harris &
  • Dylan Klebold
Physical cruelty to animalsis listed as one of the earliest symptoms indicative of Conduct Disorder.
  • DMS IV, American Psychiatric Association
“One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it.”Anthropologist Margaret Mead
child and adolescent motivations for animal abuse
Curiosity or exploration

Peer pressure

Mood enhancement

Forced abuse

Attachment to an animal

Animal phobias

Identification with the child’s abuser

Posttraumatic play




Vehicle for emotional abuse

Child and adolescent motivations for animal abuse
Animal Cruelty is one of a cluster of juvenile behaviors associated with increasingly violent behavior
  • FBI
“Animal cruelty is not a harmless venting of emotion in a healthy individual: this is a warning sign…”

FBI Supervisory Special

Agent Allen Brantley

anti violence study
Anti-Violence Study
  • 1997
  • 153 subjects - committed intentional abuse against animals
  • 70 % - criminal records
  • 40% - violent crimes against people
  • cf 22% - control group
power control


Preying on the vulnerable

children pets
Children & Pets
  • Totally dependant on parents/owners
  • Cannot speak for themselves
children pets in families
Children & Pets in Families
  • In U.S. Households, Pets are found in:
  • 67.4% of households in which the youngest child is < 6 years old
  • In 78.7% of households in which the youngest child is > 6 years old

JAVMA 1994

“The good news about human experience

is that we can cope with almost anything.

The bad news is that we will tolerate

almost anything” James Garbarino

pets in crisis

animals suffer

domestic violence


  • Because a family pet may be the sentinel for other violence occurring within a home, are veterinarians morally obligated to recognize and report animal abuse?
veterinarians do see the pets of families involved with child abuse
Veterinarians do see the pets of families involved with child abuse

In one study of 53 NJ pet-owning families involved with child abuse or neglect, researchers found that the use of veterinary services did not differ noticeably from acceptable standards.

veterinarians do see the pets of families involved with child abuse1
Veterinarians do see the pets of families involved with child abuse

In 60% of these families, pets were also abused or neglected.

The percentage (88%) was even higher when physical child abuse took place (in contrast to sexual abuse or neglect).

Of 23 British families who abused animals, 83% endangered their children also.

ways a veterinarian might learn of potential abuse
Ways a Veterinarian Might Learn of Potential Abuse:
  • Suspicious behavior or physical injuries
  • Comments by family members
  • Confiding
  • Witness
diagnostic features of abuse
Diagnostic Features of Abuse
  • History
    • vague
    • implausible
    • the account of the incident does not fit the injury
diagnostic features of abuse1
Diagnostic Features of Abuse
  • Physical Signs
    • Fractures
    • Bruising
    • Ocular Injuries
    • Burns and scalds
difficulties with diagnosing abuse
Difficulties with Diagnosing Abuse
  • No published comprehensive account of the clinical signs and pathology of the “battered pet”
  • Emotional block
  • Lack of information (or misinformation) about animal cruelty
  • Diagnostic criteria not well established
why veterinarians do not want to get involved
Why Veterinarians Do Not Want to Get Involved
  • Afraid of being on the witness stand
  • Resent time in court for which they are not properly compensated (loss of income)
  • Offend client or lose business
  • Unwanted publicity
why veterinarians do not want to get involved1
Why Veterinarians Do Not Want to Get Involved
  • Danger to practice
  • Lose contact with animal
  • Concerned about liability
    • Breaching veterinarian-client confidentiality
  • Ability to advocate on behalf of animal or fear animal may be euthanized as a result of report
state laws

Minnesota, California, West Virginia, and Idaho are the only states that require veterinarians to report cases of animal cruelty. West Virginia and Idaho grant veterinarians immunity from liability and criminal prosecution.

In Colorado and California, veterinarians are mandated reporters of child abuse, but not for animal abuse.

taking the issue to court
Taking the Issue to Court
  • VA - Class 1 Misdemeanor
    • first time offense
      • $1000
      • up to one year in jail
    • second offense
      • if first offense resulted in death
      • $2500
      • up to five years in jail
keep an eye out for the most visible victims pets
Keep an eye out for the most visible victims - Pets
  • They can lead to the hidden victims
    • Children
    • Elders
  • They can serve as sentinels for unhealthy home environments.
red light
Red Light

Malnourished animal may lead to malnourished children or elders.

Warning sign of household that is not nurturing - or maybe that doesn’t have the resources to care for dependents.

“Social welfare officials and animal officials sometimes are working on the same case and don’t even know it.”

Randall Lockwood

Many feel that animals are not as important as people and therefore do not want to spend time and resources on animal welfare issues, but it is important to realize that abused animals may lead you to abused people.
recommendation s

Become aware of the significance of the Human-Animal Bond.

Clarify and articulate your personal responsibility to both patients and clients.

Take reports of cruelty to animals seriously.

Do not be afraid to become involved.

Participate and take leadership in community coalitions against violence.



Woman’s shelter does

not allow animals

  • Some women will not leave the abuser because they fear for the pet who would be left behind
  • Some pets are indeed abused and even tortured, maimed and murdered by the abuser in attempt to further hurt the victim
  • He perpetuates the context of terror
  • He demonstrates his power
  • He announces through his actions,

you may be next

  • He eliminates an important source of constancy, comfort and affection
  • He demonstrates to her that there is nowhere she can be safe
  • He provides a strong incentive for her to stay with him
25% of women stay in in abusive relationships

to protect their pet from:

  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Neglect
  • Sexual
  • Pet may indeed be the woman or child’s only source of safety and love
  • Children may succeed more if access to pet is allowed

The Center for New Beginnings



Community Correction Center


Humane Society of Licking County


Local Veterinarians

  • Meet with director and Aftercare Coordinator of New Beginnings
  • Document problem with new inquiry and intake form
  • Form Steering Committee
  • Search for existing programs
  • Literature search
residents 3 c
Residents 3-C
  • Logistical
  • Screening tools
  • Educationanimal care appropriate training and discipline the link
therapeutic advantages of contact with pets
Therapeutic Advantages of Contact with Pets
  • Opportunity to nurture
  • Pets are source of comfort
  • Learn to touch appropriately
  • Outlet for healthy affection
  • Daily responsibility for persons needing structure
  • Animal Assisted Therapy
abusers are just aged victims

“Abusers are just aged victims”

Lynn Loar

San Francisco Child Abuse Council

  • Grace and Ben
humane education interventions
Humane Education Interventions
  • Children are poorly supervised and lack training on the physical care and humane treatment of animals
  • Teach children to be kind, caring and nurturing towards animals
healthy start
Healthy Start
  • Starts before conception with a healthy community structure
  • Family unit includes the pet
healthy lifestyles
Healthy Lifestyles
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • The social support system of human patients includes their living environment
    • pets
    • gardens
Parents often obtain a pet

for their children because they feel

the pet will be good for them.Why?

social emotional development
Social - Emotional Development
  • Responsibility
  • Positive self esteem
  • Social lubricant
  • Companionship
  • Non-judgmental affection
cognitive development
Facilitate language acquisition

Enhance verbal skills

Critical importance of animals in the nursery

Classrooms- pets, art, dance, music, plants not seen past 3rd grade

Cognitive Development
  • Beneficial to development
Depriving children of interaction with nature and animals may have negative effects on child development.

Questions from the Surgeon General:

  • Are children with a pet better adjusted than children without a pet?
  • Is there a tie to the increase of violence in classrooms?
  • Are pets necessary for normal human development?
web resources
Web resources


first strike train the trainer
First Strike Train the Trainer