THE VIOLENCE LINK

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What is the Violence Link? It's the relationship between animal abuse and interpersonal violence.

For thousands of years, humans have enjoyed a close bond with animals. Historically, animals have helped humans meet their needs for food, clothing, entertainment, and transportation. Animals are also a source of unconditional love. Interactions with animals can help decrease our loneliness and anxiety, promote social interaction, and encourage us to get much-needed exercise.

While animals contribute significantly to our quality of life, the sad reality is that animals may also be the victims of abuse or neglect at the hands of human beings. There is a growing awareness that cruelty to animals and violence to people are closely related. Studies have found that cruelty to animals is often both an indicator and a predictor of interpersonal, family and community violence.

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The connection between interpersonal violence and animal abuse — commonly referred to as “the Link” – may be seen in a variety of ways:

  • when animals are being abused in the home, there is the possibility that children and adults in that home may also be at risk;

  • when a child abuses animals, this may be an indicator that the child is also a victim of abuse; and

  • the abuse of animals by a child may be a warning sign of possible violent behaviour later as an adult.

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​What You Need to Know: Are you or someone you know being abused?

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  • Are you frightened by your partner's temper?

  • Are you afraid to disagree?

  • Are you constantly apologizing for your partner's behaviour, especially when he or she has treated you badly?

  • Do you have to justify everything you do, everywhere you go, and everyone you see just to avoid your partner's anger?

  • Does your partner put you down, but then tell you that he or she loves you?

  • Have you ever been hit, kicked, shoved, or had things thrown at you?

  • Do you not see friends or family because of your partner's jealousy?

  • Have you ever been forced to have sex?

  • Are you afraid to break up because your partner has threatened to hurt you or himself or herself?

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When acts of violence occur in one of these areas, it is usually not an isolated incident. These acts are “linked.”

Graphic adapted from National Link Coalition, www.nationallinkcoalition.org

 
  • Has your partner ever threatened your life or the life of someone close to you?

  • Has your partner deliberately injured your pets or threatened to kill them?

You are not alone.  There is help available for anyone who suffers in an abusive relationship.

Animal abuse: A form of family violence

​There is a growing understanding of the interrelationship between domestic violence, animal abuse, child abuse, and elder abuse. This interrelationship is often referred to as “the Link.” According to Phil Arkow, Coordinator of the National Link Coalition, “when animals are abused, people are at risk. When people are abused, animals are at risk” (Arkow, 2013).


Animals may suffer directly from neglect or other forms of cruelty. In addition animals can be used as a tool for the abuser to control and punish the victim. Threats of violence towards a cherished pet could prevent victims from leaving or coerce them into returning to the home. Victims may also be forced to remain silent with threats to harm the animals if the violent behaviour is reported.


Pets are seen as part of the family, making it hard for many victims of abuse to leave the home knowing their pet is left behind. Even in situations where the pet is being cared for in a safekeeping program, there can be a heart-breaking impact on the adults and children in the family as they are deprived of a valuable source of comfort during a time of stress and turmoil.

​Safety planning for you and your pet

  • Take steps now to help ensure you are prepared to leave in an emergency.

  • Take a photocopy of important documents:

    • Passports, health cards and birth certificates for all family members

    • Bank information, lease/rent agreements, mortgage papers

    • Divorce papers, custody information, court orders, restraining orders

    • Have an emergency bag packed and ready to go, with medications, prescriptions and medical records for everyone.

    • Keep your wallet or purse nearby, along with car/house/office keys, cell phone and charger.

 

 

If you own pets:

  • Try to remove the animals from the situation as soon as possible.  

    • Ask trusted friends or family members to care for animals temporarily.

    • Contact a kennel to make arrangements to have pets boarded. 

    • Talk with local veterinarians, SPCAs/Humane Societies, and animal rescues to determine if they can provide animal care. 

  • Gather supplies that might be useful if you have to leave quickly with your pet: a carrier, a favourite toy, bedding, a collar and leash, medications. Prepare a list of things a temporary caregiver should be aware of, including the pet’s daily routine, diet and feeding schedule, medical conditions and treatments, or behaviour issues. 

  • If animals are being threatened, keep any evidence you may have (such as photos, emails, or voice mail messages) to provide to police.

  • Gather receipts or paperwork related to the purchase or care of pets to help prove ownership.

Animal Abuse: A Form of Family Violence Informational Brochure

The SaskSPCA has developed a brochure outlining how animal abuse is linked to family violence, along with considerations for pet safety planning and how to recognize and report abuse.

Click here to view the brochure.

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