What is the Link?
The Link is the name given to the connection between animal abuse and violence against humans including child abuse, domestic violence, elder abuse, and other forms of interpersonal violence. Essentially, if a person is violent against sentient beings, it does not matter if that being is human or not. Where there is violence against people, animals are at risk and vice versa.
Why is the Link important?
There are well over 1000 studies on the Link. By recognizing its significance, as a society we can utilize it to help fight violent crimes. When suspected animal abuse is reported and investigated, not only may it save the lives of animals, but it may also save the lives of humans living in the same environment. The canary in the coal mine of an abusive home may literally be an abused canary. By responding to the injury or death of that canary, we can potentially save many other pets and people.
Does animal abuse always occur prior to violence against humans?
The short answer is no.
Many people are familiar with the graduation hypothesis, the idea that violent humans are first violent towards animals and then move on to people. Certainly this can happen and has been made common knowledge through the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, and other serial killers. Even some school shooters and other mass murderers have been shown to have abused animals before they committed other atrocities on humans.
But it is also true that animal abuse and interpersonal violence often take place simultaneously. Oftentimes the perpetrator is simply looking for a victim, and any victim will do. In many instances, animal cruelty is easier to hide than violence against humans. Additionally, animal abuse may be used as a form of manipulation and emotional abuse against people. And some forms of animal abuse are simply associated with other criminal acts such as the connection between dogfighting or cockfighting and illegal drugs, guns, and gambling.
Of course, none of us want to see animals harmed. The knowledge that reporting animal abuse may save a human life as well is just one more good reason to be the voice of the animals.
Who commits animal abuse?
Anyone may be a perpetrator of animal abuse. It can be caused by persons of any race, gender, age, or socioeconomic class. That said, certain types of abuse tend to be inflicted by certain demographics. For instance, physical abuse of animals is more commonly caused by older teenage and young adult males, whereas animal hoarding is more commonly associated with women over 50 years of age.
For more information on the Link and information on how to report animal abuse.
National Link Coalition website.
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
National Center on Elder Abuse - State Resources
VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email firstname.lastname@example.org.