Humane Society of Southern Arizona
The Link Between Animal Cruelty
and Interpersonal Violence
The Animal Cruelty Taskforce of Southern Arizona examines the role of animals
in family violence in a month-long public information campaign
For Release On:
October 1, 2001
Page 1 of 2
Contact information regarding this public awareness campaign:
Marsh Myers or Jami McDowell, Humane Society of Southern Arizona:
(520) 321-3704, Ext. 125 or 141
Mike Lent, DVM, Animal Cruelty Taskforce Co-Chairman: (520) 885-3594
Regarding law enforcement and prosecution information:
Det. Mike Duffey, Pima County Sheriff’s Department: (520) 741-4751
Laura Brynwood or Pat Mehrhoff, City of Tucson Attorney’s Office: 791-5492, Ext. 1510 or 1515
Regarding domestic violence issues:
Rebecca Edmonds, Governor’s Office on Family Violence Prevention: (520) 906-9961
Tucson – For over 125 years, animal welfare workers repeatedly informed law enforcement of the atrocities they felt were being committed on human family members by animal abusers. Unfortunately, much of their evidence was anecdotal and little attention was paid to the allegations. Beginning in the 1950s, however, the American Psychiatric Association began researching the emotional and mental roots of human violence. Over the next fifty years, the evidence gathered around the country began to underscore the belief of those early animal advocates.
Today, the “link” between animal cruelty and interpersonal violence is well known and is being better addressed by police agencies.
“This link is indisputable,” said Det. Mike Duffey of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department. “I saw it when I was working domestic violence cases; I see it even more now that I am working animal cruelty cases fulltime.”
Duffey, a 29-year law enforcement veteran, is also the co-chairmen of the Animal Cruelty Taskforce of Southern Arizona (ACT), a multi-agency coalition that deals with violence issues that affect wild and domesticated animals. Although the most profound and disturbing examples of the “link” are those relating to serial and mass murderers, Duffey cautions that the connection is often more subtle.
“I think everyone knows about Jeffrey Dahmer placing impaled animal skulls around his parents’ back yard,” Duffey said, “but most examples of the ‘link’ are not this dramatic. As a law enforcement officer, I may never encounter a serial killer in my career. I will encounter the wife-beater or the child abuser, and these criminals will also be abusing animals.”
“Many cruelty cases occur behind closed doors, just like other forms of domestic violence,” adds Rebecca Edmonds, a representative with the Governor’s Office on Domestic Violence and an ACT member. “Because animals are so vulnerable, they are frequently targeted by batterers as a tool to vent their rage or to control the other family members.”
In fact, the emotional “motivators” behind domestic assault and animal cruelty are virtually the same. These include the inability to control internal impulses, a limited tolerance for frustration, unresolved rage that builds up to an explosion point and seeing violence as an acceptable solution to life’s problems. In these cases, the victim is almost immaterial – it is the act of violence that is important to the abuser.
The connection between animal cruelty and interpersonal violence is so profound that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies consider it one of the leading indicators of a potentially dangerous person.
“Animal cruelty is classified as a conduct disorder,” said Marsh Myers, Director of Education and Community Outreach for the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. Conduct disorder (CD) is a broad term that identifies children or adolescents who “violate the rights of others as well as social norms.” Other forms of CD include assault, rape and homicide.
“Children who are suffering from a conduct disorder may start out as the schoolyard bully or the kid who throws rocks at the neighborhood dogs. If there isn’t an intervention at an early age, it becomes increasingly difficult to stop that destructive behavior as the child grows older. By the time that kid is in middle school or high school, he’s probably going to have a police record,” said Myers.
Duffey and the Pima County Sheriff’s Department continually see animals victimized as part of larger campaign of violence waged between family members. “We need our citizenry to understand that dogs and cats are victims too. If these animals are being mistreated in a home, the human family members are at risk too.”
ACT’s campaign will also include a free daylong seminar entitled “The Role of Animals in Domestic Violence” on October 10th. This free seminar will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the downtown branch of the Tucson-Pima Public Library. The seminar will deal with all these topics in greater detail and will provide participants with free literature and resources. Attendance is limited to 50 people and pre-registration is required by contacting Jami McDowell at the Humane Society of Southern Arizona at 321-3704, Ext. 141.
Additional information on ACT’s campaign is available by contacting the Humane Society at 321-3704, Ext. 125 or 141 or visiting the ACT website at www.act-az.org.
3450 N Kelvin Blvd
Tucson, Arizona 85716
Shelter Phone: (520) 327-6088