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Silent Victims of Family Abuse: The Role of Pets in Violence

By: Renae Hamrick, RVT

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An argument, a slammed door, a shove, a punch. Physical pain, emotional agony, endless fear. A bruised spouse, a terrified child, a trembling dog. Who will be the next victim of this violent rampage? History shows that where there is family violence, there is often also child abuse and, much less recognized, animal abuse.

The Cycle of Violence

Because pets are easy targets without a voice, they are often victims of abuse in a violent home. Studies have shown that approximately 88% of families who abuse their children have also abused their pets.

Pets are injured when they are caught in the crossfire of a violent dispute, or when an aggressor is looking for a vulnerable, quiet victim.

Pets are also injured or killed as punishment to a child or spouse for something that angered the abuser. Threats of animal abuse are made to keep the family silent about what goes on inside the home.

Children of abusive parents have violent tendencies. Because of the emotional turmoil of their home life, children may take out frustrations on a pet. There have even been cases of children killing their pets to save them from the abuse of the violent parent.

The Red Flag of Animal Abuse

Animal abuse is often a stepping stone to violence toward people. Studies show that those who were cruel toward animals as children are drastically more likely to commit violent crimes toward people.

Not only does animal abuse sound an alarm regarding a child's violent tendencies, an abused pet should also be a red flag for child and domestic abuse. In a home where pets are mistreated, there are often people who are being physically and emotionally harmed.

Any time there is a pet being abused, not only should the welfare of that animal be considered, there should also be great concern for the safety of the family associated with that pet.

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