About three quarters of American families with school-age children own at least one pet. Many of these pets are treated like family members but some experience violence. Pets provide a source of reassurance to victims of abuse, especially children. Sadly, family members who cause abuse sometimes injure or kill pets as a way of controlling others in the family.
In the United States, 50 shelters for battered women discovered in 1997 that 85% of women and 63% of children talked of pet abuse in the family. Children who have experienced abuse often become animal abusers as well. Another study in 1995 found that 32% of victims of abuse that owned pets reported that one or more of their children had injured or killed a pet. Another study in 1983 in New Jersey’s Division of Youth and Family Services revealed that more than a third of a sample of families that owned pets that were suspected of child abuse reported that their children were abusive to animals.
Children that are allowed to harm animals are more likely to be violent later in life. Boys are more likely than girls to cause serious or repeated animal cruelty and it is more common during adolescence. Animal cruelty is more associated with children who perform poorly in school, have low self-esteem, and have few friends. Often these children are bullies, have a truancy and vandalism history, and display other anti-social behaviors. According to researchers, a child’s violence toward animals frequently represents hostility and aggression that is coming from neglect or abuse of the child or another member of the family. Cruelty to animals by any family member often means that child abuse is occurring in that family.
Many family crisis professionals are recognizing the position of animals in family violence. Law enforcement agencies are now being trained to recognize situations that could be life-threatening. Local violence shelters and animal protection organizations are beginning to partner to establish “safe havens” for animals of domestic violence. Often abusers punish the family pet by injuring or killing it because of the battered victim leaving.
If you suspect animal cruelty from a minor, seek help from a family or school counselor, pediatrician or clergy. If another child or adult has harmed an animal, report it to the local humane society or police department. Whenever a child causes pain or suffering to an animal, you should be concerned. Calculated animal brutality is provoked by a desire to harm. Always intervene when a child is insensitive to the distress of an animal. Teach by example. Encourage children to respect all life and to speak up for the animals.
Pet of the Week
Monarch, 13, is a domestic short hair Calico taken in as a stray with a pelvic fracture on Dec. 15. Confined rest is the only treatment and Monarch is making good progress. An avid cat napper and deep sleeper (sometimes she scares us!), Monarch’s natural inclination to rest has been just the remedy she needed. As soon as she senses your attention, she begins purring irresistibly. And now that her hips are doing better, she also gets up to greet visitors. Monarch is a friendly love bug who adores affection. Her adoption fee is $40. She is spayed, current on shots, has been wormed, treated with monthly heart worm, flea and tick preventive and is FIV/FeLV negative. To meet this beautiful butterfly call the Clay County Humane Shelter in Brazil at 812-446-5126.