Editor’s note: This Point of View is part of a series of persuasive essays written by students in Sean Campbell’s AP Language and Composition class.
Does animal abuse correspond with a bright, waving red flag in your mind? Most likely, yes, it does. Animal cruelty is a key indicator of an unsound mental state and can be used to predict potential future offenders, as well as evidence in domestic disturbance cases.
It may not be noticeable to the untrained eye but a relationship between domestic violence and animal abuse exists. Scientists have recently deemed it “The Link” (“The link between cruelty to animals and violence toward humans,” Animal Legal Defense Fund). With this relationship in mind, Pythagoras of Samos wrote “as long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings, he will never know peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other” in 500 B.C (Harold Hovel, “The connection between animal abuse and humanabuse,” New York State Human Association).
Although “The Link” was known before Christ was born, it was not thoroughly researched until the 1960s (“Understanding the Link between Animal Cruelty and Family Violence: The Bioecological Systems Model,” Brinda Jegatheesan et al., International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, April 30, 2020). Countless studies have been conducted to determine the depth of this relationship. Those who abuse animals are five times more likely to hurt another human than those who do not (“The link between cruelty to animals and violence toward humans”). Women in domestic abuse are 11 times more likely to experience and report that their partner was involved in animal abuse (“Facts and Myths About Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse,” Animal Welfare Institute). Eighty-eight percent of households that were being investigated for child abuse also housed violence towards animals (“The link between cruelty to animals and violence toward humans”). These statistics and their many sister studies prove that there is a large correlation between pain purposely inflicted on humans and animals.
This relationship is not confined to statistics. It occurs in our world, the one we romanticize to the point of perfection to ignore the larger issues. Jeffery Dhamer is an infamous example of this phenomenon (Harold Hovel). In a childhood teeming with brutality, Dhamer was known to impale the heads of animals, such as frogs, cats and dogs, on stakes. He went on to hold an impressive record of 17 counts of murder. Why was his violent behavior towards animals not monitored to prevent a shift to human massacres?
At some point, when discussing such a dark topic, one must ask themselves this: why would anyone intentionally hurt another human being or even an animal? It is usually due to trauma or pain in the offender’s past, most often during the developmental years of childhood (Jegatheesan et al.). Abused boys were found to be seven times more likely to turn to animal cruelty than boys who did not experience violence. These beasts of prey may mimic cruelties that they have experienced themselves or witnessed loved ones’ experiences with. Animal abuse is frequently employed to retaliate against a person, gain control of a situation, or simply find a sense of pleasure in an otherwise bleak, agonizing life. In correspondence with retaliation-motivated animal cruelty, the predator may threaten a beloved pet if their prey attempts to flee, as victims tend to rely on companion animals for confidence and guidance. Multiple surveys found that somewhere between 18% and 48% of women delay leaving a violent situation for the animal’s sake (“Facts and Myths About Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse”). This bond makes the animal a target for the offender, as well.
Using the knowledge that animal abusers are more likely to commit acts of domestic violence, American law enforcement is capable of predicting who may be violent to humans in the future and also use past animal abuse in domestic abuse related cases. In 1760 A.D., Immanuel Kant expressed that “we can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals,” (Harold Hovel) which holds true to this day. In honor of this, society must take animal abuse as a serious indicator of something much deeper and refer the perpetrator towards rehabilitation. Doing so prevents the issue from escalating. As of now, some offenders may receive mandatory counseling, community service or jail in extreme cases, but many do not receive any disciplinary actions (“Animal cruelty and neglect FAQ,” The Human Society of the United States).
This blatantly ignores the issue. We, as a community, must push for the punishment for crimes against life itself, much as nature uses her cold touch to condemn those who mistreat her gift. Counseling and community service are essential rehabilitation techniques that should be applied in every case where a person is found guilty of animal abuse. Teaching respect for other lives and healthy management of negative emotions will inevitably curb the growth of domestic violence. In fact, it may be the only way to do so.
With such a deep and well-proven connection between domestic abuse and animal cruelty, it is critical to end the painful cycle with animal abuse before it has the opportunity to progress to violence against other humans. Law enforcement and government must take a stand to help a society declining under brutality.
Serena Fankhauser is a junior at Homer High School.