Cruelty to animals and domestic violence must not be seen as isolated problems but as a correlation. The deeds are often connected and one can suggest further brutal acts for the other. Violence towards animals can often flag up violence towards people (usually family members). Brutality towards people can be an indicator that animals in the immediate environment are also being treated cruelly (often as a power exercise over the people who care about the animal). This interconnection must be kept in mind when signs of violence or cruelty are observed either against humans or animals.
As the English initiative ‘The Links Group’ put it: "Where animals are abused, people are in danger. Where people are abused, animals are in danger."
This unfortunate connection can manifest itself in various ways:
- People who are violent towards their partners and/or their children, can threaten, hurt or kill animals to show the victims what might happen to them, to scare them into silence or submission. Consequently, animals are seriously endangered and the human victims will not dare to leave the dangerous environment, either out of fear for their own lives or to protect their beloved pet.
- Children can start being cruel to animals, to take revenge on their tormentors, or to exercise a form of power and cruelty they themselves have suffered. They want to be in control themselves and not be victims.
In many cases, when children are forced regularly to observe cruelty to animals, they experience psychological and emotional damage that impairs their empathy development. They experience a desensitisation to the suffering of other creatures, enabling them to become abusers themselves. Depending on the extent of their psychological damage, they run the risk of becoming perpetrators of domestic violence later on. Many criminals, murderers and rapists have revealed they suffered abuse growing up. Even if they don’t go so far as rape or murder, there is a real risk that abuse victims will show the same brutal behaviour patterns towards their own children as adults.