The Link is a term developed by the American Humane Association referring to the fact that neglect and abuse towards others can manifest in more ways than one, creating overlaps among animal cruelty, domestic violence, child abuse and elder abuse. The Colorado LINK Project has expanded the concept of the Link somewhat and subsequently refers to the Link as the overlaps between animal neglect and abuse, maltreatment of children, maltreatment of elders or “at risk” adults, interpersonal violence and criminality. When the human-animal bond is broken by neglect, abuse or violence both humans and animals are victims. The implications for human and animal welfare necessitate viewing the Link as a public safety concern.
The incidence of animal neglect and abuse is not infrequent and these behaviors are generally not isolated to actions towards animals. In fact, researchers are identifying a correlation between animal abuse and human abuse behaviors. This correlation supports the value of viewing animal abuse as an important potential indicator for other acts of callousness, human maltreatment and family violence. In many cases patterns of maltreatment and family violence have been passed on when victims become perpetrators. Individuals empowered with a knowledge of Link dynamics can be better equipped to understand, prevent, assess and intervene in matters of both human and animal maltreatment and violence.
A Few Statistics
The Latham Foundation Publication of “Breaking the Cycle of Violence: A practical guide” found that childhood and adolescent histories of cruelty to animals have been reported in:
- 25% of aggressive male prisoners
- 30% of convicted child molesters
- 36% of assaulters of women
- 46% of incarcerated sexual homicide perpetrators
- 48% of convicted rapists
The statistics below underscore the importance of elevating the presence of animal maltreatment to a higher level of concern and viewing it as a potential public safety and human welfare issue.
A survey conducted in Utah found that 20% of women in a safe house delayed leaving their abusive homes out of fear that their pet would be harmed, 71% of pet-owning women entering a shelter reported that their husband or boyfriend killed, harmed or threatened an animal. This survey also found that children witnessed the animal abuse in over 60% of the cases, 32% of those had admitted that their children had hurt or killed an animal.
Barnes, Boat, Putnam, Dates, & Mahlman, 2006
Study finds that adults who keep vicious dogs are more likely to have been arrested for violent crimes and drug- and property-related offenses.
Merz-Perez, Heide, & Silverman, 2001
Found that violent offenders incarcerated in a maximum security prison were significantly more likely than nonviolent offenders to have committed childhood acts of cruelty toward pets.
MSPCA and Northeastern University
A 1997 study found that 70% of animal abusers had committed at least one other criminal offense and almost 40% had committed violent crimes against people.
68% of battered women reported violence toward their animals. 87% occurred in the presence of the woman and 75% occurred in the presence of children.