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Understanding the Link between Animal Cruelty and Family Violence: The Bioecological Systems Model

Professionals dealing with an animal or a human patient/client who has been subjected to abuse are uniquely situated to act in the role of ‘first responders’ when they suspect or recognize animal abuse, human abuse, or family violence. However, the Violence Link is a complex problem that can leave many professionals unclear on how they can intervene and collaborate across sectors.

To more fully understand the Violence Link and appropriate interventions, Jegatheesan et al, in their paper, propose Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological systems as a model through which to examine the complexity of the problem.

Through a series of real-life case studies involving police officers, other law enforcers, veterinarians, social workers, and community and family members, they examine how Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological systems model has the potential to better support animal and human health and welfare professionals in the identification of strategies for animals and humans caught in abusive settings. They recommend that these professionals become familiar with the bioecological systems model to enable them to better understand the psychological problems of animal cruelty and family violence and the different bioecological contributing factors.

Below is an illustrative hypothetical case from the paper showing the multi-tiered set of systems encapsulating the range of professionals who may be involved with a Violence Link case. This illustrates the power and capabilities of using the Bioecological theoretical model and the need for collaborative efforts between a range of relevant individuals and professionals for more effective interventions.

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