Abuse that strikes family and pets alike

FAMILY PET: Where animals are being maltreated, often humans are too.

WHEN looking at abuse suffered by pets it is becoming more and more recognised that it is part of a bigger picture.
Research has shown that where animals are being maltreated it is also highly likely that abuse of human members of the family is also occurring. “There is no doubt that there is a link between animal abuse and human abuse,” said Dr. Rhonda Schulman, a veterinarian at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
“The statistics are frightening, but it is important that everyone, including veterinarians, recognise this serious problem because animal abuse in a home is very likely a sign of an even bigger problem within that family.”
Some estimates suggest that up to 90 per cent of animals living in a home where domestic abuse happens end up being abused or killed as abusers look to use the pet as an extra tool to harm or psychologically abuse their human victims.
In the USA some studies say that nearly 60 per cent of women who seek assistance from shelters to escape abuse have had a pet killed by an abuser.
That is because the family pet is often used by the abuser as leverage to control the person being abused. Indeed many women in the USA have reported that they are reluctant to leave the abuser as they are scared that the pet will be harmed.
“Abuse can also be self-propagating within a family,” said Dr. Schulman. “For instance, the mother or father abuses the child and then the child abuses the pet. This is sometimes the only way that the child can assume any sense of personal power.”
Witnessing the abuse of a family pet can influence children to become abusive later in life, because they have learned the behaviour through observing and through identification with the abuser. Studies have also shown that children who torture animals are at higher risk than others to grow up to use violence against people.
Many adults who have committed serial murders or mass violence tortured animals as children.
“This means that if a child is exhibiting this sort of behaviour, it is extremely important to take it seriously and intervene while there is still a chance to positively influence the child’s development,” said Dr. Schulman


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