Animal Abuse Linked to Domestic Violence

State laws often treat animal cruelty as a light offense, but there is a significant and dangerous correlation between animal abuse and domestic violence. A Northeastern University study found that almost 40% of animal abusers have committed violent crimes against others. A 1997 study by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine estimates that 36% of animal abusers have also assaulted women. In another study of battered women in a South Carolina shelter, 50% of the women reported that their abusive partner also hurt or threatened household pets. “The main reason for animal abuse within a domestic relationship is control,” says psychologist Murray J. Cohen, M.D. “Threatening, harming, and killing companion animals can powerfully demonstrate someone’s power over a partner or child.” Within the past ten years, at least thirty-seven states have adopted legislation to criminalize certain forms of animal cruelty. However, most states still classify animal abuse as a misdemeanor, and impose punishments of only a few months of probation or community service. Yet considering that many of America’s serial killers including Jeffrey Dahmer and Kip Kinkel have a history of torturing animals, legislatures and law enforcement need to recognize that paying closer attention to those who commit animal cruelty could prevent other violence, especially against women.


First Strike Campaign; Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine; New York Times, 11/10/02.

Support eh ERA banner