Asking About Animals



Active inquiry and observations about the relationships between people and animals often yields value information about people’s behaviors and the dynamics in their environments.

The following are some of the benefits of asking about animals:

  • Animals are considered to be a “social lubricant” because they help facilitate conversations
  • Rapport and trust building based on the common ground of “the human-animal bond”
  • Discussions about animals inform about an individuals values, beliefs and background
  • Animals can be a catalyst for discussions that reveal powerful insight into the dynamics of human interactions.
  • Many individuals tend to talk and interact more when animals are involved, either physically or verbally.
  • Asking about animals is a less threatening way to approach individuals who do not want to talk directly about their personal circumstances, especially if they are victims of abuse.
  • Animal related questions may quickly reveal more information about family ecosystems than “traditional” assessment questions

Identification of Risk and Protective Factors in the Environment


The manner in which people interact with and care for animals in their environment may provide critical information regarding risk and protective factors related to both public safety and human welfare.

Asking about animals may provide information that identifies incidents or patterns of:

  • acts of  harm or violence
  • threats or coercive behaviors
  • attitudes or acts of callousness
  • neglect of humans and/or animals
  • lack of awareness regarding proper care of  humans and/or animals
  • verbal and emotional abuse
  • safety issues or hazards



Here are some simple questions that can be added to any assessment in order to gain more information about the home environment and how it may or may not include animals:

  • Do you or your family members have pets?
  • Have you ever had pets?
  • What happens when your family pet misbehaves?   or  What used to happen when your family pet would misbehave?
  • Have you ever lost a pet you really cared about?  What happened?
  • Has your pet ever been hurt?
  • Have you ever felt afraid for your pet or worried about bad things happening to your pet?
  • Have you ever seen someone hurt an animal or pet?   What happened (to the animal) ?
  • Have you ever hurt an animal or pet?  What happened?
  • Have you ever been punished for something your pet did, like getting into the trash?
  • Has your pet ever been punished for something you did, like not doing the dishes when you were told to?

No individual or professional is assumed to feel comfortably or be equipped to intervene in areas outside their expertise. Information is available and easily accessible through this site to guide the reader to learn how, when and where to report concerns about human or animal maltreatment in Colorado. It is the hope that professionals across myriad professions can intervene in the most meaningful and safe way possible to work towards ending violence and maltreatment towards both humans and animals.