Domestic violence and animal abuse: is there a canary in the coal mine?

By Jacqueline Read

On January 10 CASA will host the 10th Annual San Miguel Walk Against Violence. As the single agency in San Miguel providing support and shelter for victims of domestic abuse, CASA receives referrals from municipal agencies and other nonprofits working within the field, and in 2013 plans to seed ten additional Previolencia support groups in rural towns around San Miguel. The Walk is a way to raise money for community groups in those towns so they can educate, monitor, and establish a network of safe houses in their areas. But, is there a canary in the coal mine that can help them monitor current or potential family violence?

10th Annual San Miguel Walk Against Violence
Thu, Jan 24, 2013
All proceeds to benefit the Violence Prevention program at CASA
Contact CASA at 154-6060 or Trish Snyder 121-0612 for more information

Over the past twenty years a wealth of research has firmly linked domestic violence and the abuse or neglect of family pets. Many family counselors now include questions about pets in their first interview and recognize that frequently it is the family’s dog or cat who is the first victim in a wave of violence that will escalate to other family members. It is also no longer hyperbole to state that a child who abuses animals may indeed grow up to abuse people.

This should come as no surprise to us. The theory that frequently the domestic abuser begins with or includes violence towards the family pet is probably as old as time. What is to be celebrated is the fact that now, like the revised rules about providing for the family pet during evacuations, family shelters around the globe are making provisions to take the animals out of domestic violence too. As societies monitor the potential for violence in families and juveniles, a new kind of cross-training is taking place between social service and humane agencies. Humane society workers are being taught to look for signs of family violence, and domestic violence workers are being taught to view animal abuse as a telling indicator of just how far an abuser will go. Concurrently, compassion for animals is taught at the pre-school level as a means to instill respect for all family members.

Why is animal abuse or neglect the canary in the coal mine of domestic abuse? “If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”—Francis of Assisi


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