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ASPCA, National Link Coalition Release Toolkit to Help Communities Address Link between Animal Abuse and Human Violence

New resource encourages communities to build coalitions to identify, tackle animal abuse
October 26, 2012

NEW YORK—The ASPCA® (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) and the National Link Coalition today launched the first-ever toolkit to help communities build coalitions to address the link between animal cruelty and human violence. The resource was developed by Dr. Randall Lockwood, senior vice president of ASPCA Forensic Sciences and Anti-Cruelty Projects, and Phil Arkow, coordinator for the National Link Coalition.

The Toolkit for Starting a Link Coalition in Your Community is a 34-page, illustrated manual that outlines how communities can form coalitions by connecting officials in child welfare, animal welfare, domestic violence response and adult protective services to identify and respond to incidents of animal abuse and interpersonal violence. The toolkit is available free of charge to the public and includes details on how to start a coalition, along with case studies to encourage communities to take action and urge stakeholders to collaborate and work toward a multidisciplinary approach in addressing animal cruelty and human violence.

“Animal abuse doesn’t happen in isolation,” said the ASPCA’s Dr. Lockwood. “Research has revealed that where the family pet is being abused, it is likely that a family member is also a victim of abuse. By helping communities form coalitions, we are creating a more effective approach in breaking the cycles of violence and protecting vulnerable members of our society.”

“The challenges of all forms of family violence are too great for any one agency to handle alone,” added Arkow. “By taking a multidisciplinary approach, and by getting agencies that work with children, animals, domestic violence and elder abuse to coordinate their efforts, communities will see greater response and more lives will be saved.”

Dr. Lockwood continued, “The ASPCA has been an active member and long-time supporter of the National Link Coalition, and we are pleased to offer this toolkit to help communities across the country recognize the interconnectedness of animal cruelty and other forms of violence, and we urge stakeholders to work together to prevent violence toward people and animals.”

Experts recognize that various forms of family and community violence are interrelated, and that law enforcement, social services and animal welfare professionals often deal with the same offenders and victims. In a past study, the ASPCA found that a majority of law enforcement officers surveyed—78 percent—believe that animal abusers are more likely to be involved in interpersonal violence or other violent crimes.* Other sources report that 70 percent of animal abusers had criminal records including crimes of violence, property, drugs, or disorderly behavior. Additionally, numerous studies have documented that battered women delay leaving abusive situations out of fear for the safety of their animals, and that up to 71 percent of battered women said their partners harmed, killed or threatened pets.

There are nearly 30 coalitions that currently exist in the U.S. including: San Bernardino County Animal Cruelty Task Force (San Bernardino, Calif.); Colorado Alliance for Cruelty Prevention (Denver, Colo.); Safety Network for Abused Animals and People (Washington, D.C.); The Linkage Project (Portland, Maine); Human/Animal Violence Education Network (Berkshire County, Mass.); and Ohio Domestic Violence Network (Columbus, Ohio).

For additional information about the Toolkit for Starting a Link Coalition in Your Community, and to view a list of existing coalitions that the public can get involved in, please visit www.nationallinkcoalition.org or http://www.aspcapro.org/the-link-between-animal-cruelty-and-huma.php.

*Figure taken from a 2010 ASPCA study, entitled “Public and Professional Perspectives on Animal Cruelty,” conducted by Southeastern Institute of Research, Inc. The research highlighted the critical role that animal services and animal cruelty investigations play in communities nationwide while pointing out the obstacles that law enforcement face in responding to animal abuse.