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The Link Between Animal Cruelty And Human Violence

The Link Between Animal Cruelty And Human Violence

The Link Between Animal Cruelty And Human Violence

The Link Between Animal Cruelty And Human Violence

Mandated reporters are individuals who are required by law to identify and report suspected instances of abuse and neglect, such as child abuse, elder abuse, and intimate partner violence.

Mandated reporting extends beyond the abuse and maltreatment of human victims; many states also require mandated reporting of animal cruelty.

While it may seem that animal abuse and human violence are two separate issues, a growing body of evidence shows a clear link between animal abuse and interpersonal violence.

Animal abuse and neglect are often red flags for other violent behaviors.

Animal abuse often co-occurs with other forms of family violence. Studies show that domestic abusers frequently harm pets to exert control over their victims, silence victims, and prevent them from leaving abusive relationships.

The National Link Coalition is a nonprofit advocacy organization working to increase awareness of The Link between animal cruelty, domestic violence, child maltreatment, and elder abuse.

Research gathered by The Link demonstrates a clear connection between animal abuse and violence:

  • 70% of people charged with cruelty to animals were known by police for other violent behavior — including homicide.
  • 61.5% of animal abuse offenders had also committed an assault.
  • 71% of domestic violence survivors said their partners harmed, killed, or threatened their pets.
  • Animal abuse was reported in 88% of families investigated for physical child abuse.
  • Nearly 50% of school shooters have a history of animal cruelty.

Animal abuse acts as a sentinel indicator, or an early warning sign, for other types of abuse. Professionals can often detect family violence through reports of animal cruelty, making it a critical area for early intervention.

Animal Neglect as a Sign of Elder Abuse

Animal neglect and hoarding can often accompany neglect and self-neglect.

When responding to an animal welfare call, animal control and humane society officers may be the first to see signs of elder abuse, neglect, or self-neglect. This is why numerous states designate animal control officers as mandated elder maltreatment reporters.

  • 92% of Adult Protective Services (APS) caseworkers found animal neglect co-existing with self-neglect
  • Animal hoarding is a risk for elder self-neglect
  • 35% of APS caseworkers found that elderly abuse victims' pets were threatened or harmed.

The Case for Cross-Reporting

Approximately 21 states have mandated that veterinarians report animal cruelty, and 15 states plus DC require or explicitly permit social workers to report suspected animal cruelty.

Cross-reporting of abuse by animal and human welfare organizations is a continuing legislative trend as states recognize and respond to the link between animal cruelty and interpersonal violence.

Law enforcement, medical professionals, child protective services, domestic violence shelters, animal protection groups, and veterinarians may encounter evidence of animal cruelty, human violence, neglect, or maltreatment.

Cross-reporting allows several key agencies to work together to protect vulnerable animals, children, and family members.

In 2023, Delaware passed a three-part legislative package that weaves animal welfare into the state’s existing protections against domestic violence. The trio of bills enhances protection for companion animals in areas of family law pertaining to domestic violence, divorce, and mandated reporting.

Delaware Senate Bill 71 requires law enforcement agencies, the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families, and the Department of Justice that discover suspected animal cruelty while investigating child welfare cases to cross-report to the Office of Animal Welfare.

“Injuring an animal is often a precursor to violence against a child, spouse, or intimate partner,” said Sen. Stephanie Hansen. “Social workers and caseworkers can play key roles in cross-reporting animal abuse and human violence.”

Delaware joins states such as California, Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia with two-way cross-reporting requirements. Two-way reporting requirements say that those who work with children must report suspected animal abuse, while those who work with animals must report suspected child or elder abuse.

Other states have one-way cross-reporting requirements.

Cross-reporting laws allow child abuse prevention, animal cruelty prevention, and domestic violence prevention groups to collaborate, providing an additional layer of protection for vulnerable members of households.

There are currently no federal laws requiring cross-reporting of animal cruelty and human violence.

Can Training Improve Reporting Outcomes?

Mandated reporters may be required to take training in certain states. Even when not required, mandated reporter training can offer benefits that overcome issues such as false reporting and lack of information about reporting.

Training programs can help mandated reporters identify signs and patterns of abuse, neglect, and maltreatment. Training can also help reporters understand where and how to make an initial report and cross-reports.

Mandated reporters can find trainings that satisfy issues of cross-reporting. California offers a child abuse training course for animal control officers required to cross-report, and animal welfare organizations such as the Humane Society and ASPCA offer training courses for law enforcement officers. These types of cross-training programs are a starting point for improving reporting outcomes and protecting vulnerable humans and animals.

Animal Cruelty is a Red Flag for Other Forms of Abuse and Violence

Animal cruelty is intimately connected to other forms of violence, such as domestic violence and child abuse. Animal cruelty and domestic violence are also often predecessors of violent crimes by violent individuals. In cases of neglect, an individual unable to care for their animals may also be unable to care for themselves or children living in their household. The wellbeing of an animal can be a reflection or red flag warning of abuse or neglect of a vulnerable human, as well.

When mandated reporters understand The Link between animal maltreatment and human maltreatment, are trained in identifying different forms of maltreatment, and know how to report and cross-report, it can help protect the most vulnerable among us.

The National Link Coalition emphasizes the need for a comprehensive and collaborative approach to tackling family violence. By recognizing the interconnectedness of animal abuse and other forms of violence, and through public education, professional training, community organization, and policy advocacy, they aim to create safer and healthier communities.

The National Link Coalition aims to raise awareness and address the interconnectedness of animal abuse and other forms of family violence, such as domestic violence, child abuse, and elder abuse. They promote a multi-disciplinary approach to prevent and intervene in these forms of violence through public education, professional training, community organization, and policy advocacy.

To learn more about The Link, visit

Recognize the signs of abuse.