The Cruelty Connection

The Cruelty Connection

Is there a connection between animal cruelty and human violence?

Research has shown that there is a connection between animal abuse, child abuse, domestic violence, elder abuse, bullying and other forms of violence. Intentional animal cruelty or abuse can be a warning sign that an individual has already experienced violence and may be predisposed to committing other crimes such as vandalism, arson, physical assault and even murder. A child who has abused an animal could be the victim of abuse and are at a greater risk of mimicking the abusive behaviour. If it goes unreported….everyone suffers.

What is the connection between animal cruelty and family violence?

Animal cruelty and/or abuse in the family represents a hierarchy of power and control. It is used to manipulate, control and isolate a victim of domestic violence. Pets are generally considered a part of the family and ultimately can share the suffering that occurs when there is violence in the home. The abuser may use violence, or threat of violence against animals, to terrorize, manipulate and control the human victim. Killing or removing the family pet can isolate the person who is being abused. Some victims will stay in destructive relationship due to threats against, or out of concern for, their companion animals. Animals may even be used to perpetrate sexual abuse. There is strong evidence connecting animals’ abuse, domestic violence, child abuse and elder abuse. This sometimes can even escalate to individuals outside of the family.

Calgary Humane Society Research

The Calgary Humane Society undertook a collaborative study with the YWCA Family Violence Prevention Centre, the Sheriff King Home and with researcher Sue McIntosh that was supported by RESOLVE Alberta. The 2001 study showed a direct connection between family violence and animal abuse in Calgary. It also indicated that animal cruelty may be a warning of future violence.

Here are key study results:

  • 56% of participants reported their abuser had threatened to hurt or kill or had actually hurt or killed a family pet
  • 65% reported their children were aware their pets had been hurt or killed and felt their children had been impacted
  • 25% of participants reported they had delayed their decision to leave their situation out of fear for their pet’s safety
  • 21% reported their abusive partners had abused animals as a child
  • 16% reported concerns their children may have hurt or killed a pet

Without intervention, the cycle of violence will continue. It’s important to be responsible and take the opportunity to intervene when people or animals are abused end the cycle of violence.


reprinted from Calgary Humane Society


More reading —

The Animal Cruelty Syndrome, NY Times


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