While many people consider animal abuse and family violence to be two separate issues, studies suggest that they are actually linked.

Although animal abuse protection agencies and social care workers often coordinate with each other to prevent or report various forms of abuse, generally animal abuse and child abuse are considered two separate issues. However, professionals working in these fields will tell you that within families, it can involveis often the same perpetrators involved and the same overarching problems.

In the past couple of decades, official bodies have recognised a link between cruelty to animals, domestic violence and child abuse. While both the NSPCC and the RSPCA have highlighted this troubling link, the two different forms of abuse are still widely often thought of as unconnected.

To spot signs of animal cruelty, which could perhaps lead tobe an indicator of the abuse of children, practitioners must receive the correct training. Here we take a look at how animal abuse and child abuse are linked.

Previous analysis

In the past there have been studies into the link between animal abuse and child maltreatment, including one by Simon Hackett, of the School of Applied Social Sciences at Durham University, and Emma Uprichard, from the Department of Sociology at the University of York.

During this study, the researchers analysed previous findings. When it comes to whether children who mistreat animals are more likely to become violent, they found a number of reports that showed a correlation between child abuse of animals and other problematic behaviour. A study from the US revealed that of 153 young adults who had been convicted of animal cruelty, 70 per cent were convicted for at least one other offence, including violence towards other people.

After looking in detail at previous reports, both Mr Hackett and Ms Uprichard argued that for children who went on to develop serious violent behaviour towards others, cruelty to animals was a significant stage and represented a desensitisation of the perpetrators.

The link

“When animals are abused, people are at risk;

when people are abused, animals are at risk”

From Understanding the Link between Violence to Humans and Violence to Animals. By The American Humane Society

According to the National Link Coalition – an organisation that works to stop violence against people and animals – In child abuse cases, actual or threatened animal abuse is often a way for the abused to silence their victims about the incident.

For example, killing or harming a family pet could be a source of comfort or control for the child victim;. In some cases, victims will abuse animals to either protect the animal from worse harm or to displace their hostility towards their abuser.

There are some instances when children are brought up around dog fighting, for example, a problem that is linked to gambling, guns, gangs and drugs. When vulnerable children are exposed to this toxic environment, they can often become desensitised to violence and unable to experience empathy. It is crucial to remember that the emotional impact upon vulnerable children who witness or perpetrate acts of animal cruelty can be both lifelong and devastating.


Animal control protection officers, social care workers and anyone working with children or animals must consider that all cases of abuse have the potential to be connected to other forms of violence or dysfunction in the home. In the majority of cases, these types of professionals will be the first responders and first point of contact for a person, animal or family in need of help.

In order to prevent animals and children from being harmed, awareness surrounding these links must be built. This includes encouraging legislators, community agencies, and members of the public to take action by giving greater importance to suspected animal abuse, with the knowledge that they could be preventing other forms of violence.

We have recently worked with The Links Group, to create free online training which helps professionals to understand and recognise the signs of animal abuse. To find out more about this free online training, sign up to our newsletter.


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