people abuse pets might abuse people, too |

people abuse pets might abuse people, too

by Linda Hiller

People who mistreat their pets often abuse their family members.

That was one of the messages Douglas County Animal Control Supervisor Rhonda Moore told those attending a talk on the “Correlation Between Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse” at the Family Support Council last week.

“Animal abuse is often a tool used for control over the battered woman,” she said. “And if someone is capable of abusing their pet, they are probably capable of abusing their family members.”

– They see a lot. Moore said Douglas County animal control officers often see animal abuse in pet owners’ yards.

“Sometimes, people don’t think we see much, but we see a lot,” she said.

Moore said cases of suspected abuse can be referred to Children’s Protective Services by animal control officers if they see what they consider definite signs.

“We’re not specifically trained for that right now, but we do have some training coming in that area,” she said.

When a battered individual seeks to leave their batterer, sometimes it is the family pet that keeps them home, still in harm’s way, Moore said.

“They might not be able to leave for fear of what will happen to their beloved pets,” she said. “We have housed some pets for victims who have left their abusers and go through Family Support Council for help. I think it would be a good idea to have a kennel here, since this is often their first stop. We could have a kennel – maybe someone would donate one – for the animals to have a safe haven here before coming out to us for more long-term housing.”

– Pets can be pawns. Moore said she’d seen cases where batterers abused a pet in front of a family member to intimidate them into not leaving.

Animals can push the anger buttons of batterers as easily as children, spouses or elderly relatives, she said.

“It’s all the same triggers – crying, whining, eating – these issues and more can trigger violent responses in batterers,” she said. “When someone abuses their pet, it’s an indicator to us that they could also mistreat their family members.”

Those attending the Family Support Council presentation watched a video illustrating the fact that “how we treat animals influences – and is indicative of – the ways in which we treat each other.”

Learning about ourselves from animals can be positive thing, the video suggested, and on the flip side, it can tell us a lot about our dark side.

Eighty percent of males who batter their wives are also violent toward children and family pets.

An early sign of children who might grow up to be batterers or criminals is in the way they treat animals – if cruel, they could be headed for trouble.

– Don’t be complacent. If you suspect animal abuse in Douglas County, call Moore at 782-9061.

If you suspect domestic abuse or child abuse, or would like to borrow a video on this subject, call the Family Support Council, 782-8692.