Category Archives: X issues & dialogs

Interesting facts about pet abuse and domestic violence connections

I am not a researcher or statistician. I am an artist and a trauma counselor with some real life experience. And I am a decent web surfer. I have seen enough evidence to convince me how important it is to address animal abuse and domestic violence simultaneously. But to gather information to convince others is a bigger challenge.

Luckily, a number of groups have been working on the issue for quite awhile, and they have amassed an impressive cache of information.

The American Humane Association is one group that has been working on this for many years. I found a treasure trove of information on their site. I hope you will go there and learn more. Here is a sample of information I found on one of their fact sheets:

Did You Know?

  • More American households have pets than have children. We spend more money on pet food than on baby food. There are more dogs in the U.S. than people in most countries in Europe – and more cats than dogs. [13]
  • A child growing up in the U.S. is more likely to have a pet than a live-at-home father. [14]
  • Pets live most frequently in homes with children: 64.1% of homes with children under age 6, and 74.8% of homes with children over age 6, have pets. The woman is the primary caregiver in 72.8% of pet-owning households. [11
  • Battered women have been known to live in their cars with their pets for as long as four months until an opening was available at a pet-friendly safe house. [15]

I didn’t know some of that myself. It is somewhat sad and surprising to me that more children have pets than live-at-home fathers. I am glad to know that pets are available to fill emotional needs, but it is also unfortunate that society tends to disregard the importance of the role the pets play when we intervene with those in dangerous situations.

My hope is that Okey’s Promise can help shine more light on the great work that has been going on for some time to reveal this important issue.

As an artist and a counselor, I feel that I have some unique insights and talents that can bring some new attention to the concerns. But I am truly just a small part of Okey’s Promise. Okey’s Promise is a movement and a cause, and it’s biggest asset will be the people who join in and spread the word. YOU are the most important part of Okey’s Promise.

Please share the video, share the message, support with a pledge, or share the message any way that you can. Be one of Okey’s Promise Keepers. Let’s keep Okey’s Promise alive by doing better for society’s children, domestic violence victims, AND creatures.

BZTAT

Wanna pledge your support to Okey’s Promise? Every little bit helps! Make your pledge here, and/or grab the widget to put on your website. Thanks for your support!

Helping Pets Also Helps Human Victims of Domestic Violence

In a home that offers little human comfort, and where, instead, there are humans that control other family members through domestic violence, a pet maybe the only source of comfort a victim has.

Leaving the one source of comfort behind with an abuser can prevent human victims of domestic violence from getting help for themselves. Can you blame them?

Few domestic violence shelters offer on site accommodations for pets. There is a growing number of shelters, however, that connect with local animal rescues to find foster homes for pets while a human victim seeks shelter. The video above talks about how important that connection is.

Thanks to my friends Diane and Cosmo for sharing the video with me. I think it really gets the message across. We need to do more to help domestic violence victims seek safety for themselves by offering reassurance that their pets can be safe too.

Wanna pledge your support to Okey’s Promise? Every little bit helps! Make your pledge here, and/or grab the widget to put on your website. Thanks for your support!

BZTAT

Violence hurts. Any kind and to any degree. To people and to animals.

I was interviewed on TPPCtv’s “Pets Teach Us So Much” blog talk radio show last Friday (follow the link to listen to the show). Robbie Everitt, one of the hosts asked me about serial killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer who are known to have started their killing sprees by harming animals.

I told her, yes, Dahmer was known to have tortured animals, and other mass murderers were known to have harmed animals. But it is not only the most extreme serial killers about whom we should be concerned. It is those people who are committing domestic violence regularly in their homes of whom we should be most concerned, as their actions are not as rare.

With information spilling out every day about the recent mass murder in Tucson, AZ and the alleged mass murderer, our fascination with the most extreme of human violence has again reached a fevered pitch. When someone does something so horrible and so dramatic as the Tuscon shooting, we cannot help but be intrigued.

There is still very little known about Jared Loughner, the alleged Tuscon killer. In regards to his relationship with animals, he reportedly enjoyed having his own pet dog, yet was relieved of his dog walking duties at a local animal shelter where he volunteered. According to news reports, he refused to stop walking dogs in an area that was contaminated with the parvovirus, a highly contagious and deadly disease for dogs.

I don’t know if that behavior puts Loughner in the category of what we would call an animal abuser. Certainly he was a troubled young man on many fronts.

But as attention grabbing as the headlines maybe of one person killing six and injuring 14 people, Loughner’s is not the only story of a troubled soul causing harm to others that has played out this week. As tragic as 9 year old Christina Green’s senseless death was, many other children have experienced violence over the past week–in their homes and in their communities. Their stories are going untold.

Yes, Jeffrey Dahmer and Lee Boyd Malvo, one of the DC Snipers, were known to have harmed animals in the lead up to their more serious crimes of serial murder. But these are the extremes that luckily, do not happen very frequently. Sadly, there are folks who are seemingly everyday people, possibly your neighbor or colleague, who DO perpetrate violence daily to animals, to children, to spouses and to romantic partners.

Their behaviors should be every bit as alarming as Loughner, Dahmer and Boyd.

When a person harms an animal, there is a strong likelihood that he or she will also harm defenseless human beings. In rare cases, that person may become a serial killer or mass murderer. In less rare cases, that person may become someone who causes severe emotional and physical pain to his/her family and loved ones. Both are serious, and both deserve our attention.

Will you help me get that message out there? Will you help me tell the stories that are going untold?

Certainly, we want to prevent troubled individuals from becoming mass murderers. But preventing animal abuse, child abuse and domestic violence are primary concerns as well.

BZTAT

Please let me know if you know of a story that you would like to share of a child or other person who has been touched by violence, and whose story involves a connection between animal abuse and human interpersonal violence. I will be happy to share the story, and omit any identifying information at your request.

The timing is good for increased awareness.

There are several studies that confirm the link between abuse to animals and interpersonal violence between human beings. It is not a supposition. It is a fact. Abuse towards animals often points to circumstances where children and other vulnerable persons are in danger as well.

Unlike other health and safety concerns, however, these studies simply are not on the general public’s radar. Why not? Probably because there is no trendy PR campaign to promote it. (I aim to change that.)

But there is another ugly reason.

Society tends to operate in an “out of sight out of mind” manner when it comes to messy things. Domestic violence, child abuse and animal abuse are messy things.

We can easily express outrage at horrible things that happen to people and to animals. But getting to the bottom of what leads to the horrible things happening in the first place is not so easy.

Follow my process here.

Increased awareness about a messy thing such as children in risky and dangerous situations leads to better identification of actual children at risk. When a child at risk is identified (or thousands, as the case might be), we are compelled to do something for that child. We are compelled to provide child welfare intervention, physical health care and mental health services. These services cost money – public money.

And right now, public money for child welfare intervention, physical health care and mental health services is VERY scarce.

From a callous and myopic point of view, there is a disincentive for public policy makers to become aware of something that will identify more troubles than they have money to address.

I spoke with Mary Lou Randour,Professional outreach coordinator, Animal Cruelty and Fighting Campaign for the Humane Society of the United States this week, and I asked her about that concern. Her response was that the long term costs of NOT intervening early far outweigh any temporary savings from ignoring the obvious.

Children who witness violence and/or experience violence in their home/community often become the perpetrators of violence and other delinquent acts. They are at high risk for drug abuse and drug related crime. By not putting resources to early identification and intervention, we end up putting more resources towards criminal justice interventions later on with these same individuals.

There is currently a lot of political rhetoric in the public discourse about the funding of health care and government programs. The debate is so polarized, it is difficult to discern what is truly at the heart of the matter. I will make no specific political statement here, nor will I espouse a direct opinion.

I will only state that any cuts to services for children in need likely will lead to forced interventions in criminal justice programming later down the road. Is that what we want?

We need to be aware of children and animals that are in danger in our society, and we need to stop the “out of sight out of mind” manner in which we approach messy societal concerns. We need to identify and we need to intervene. We need to compel our public policy makers to prioritize these issues as they determine funding for essential public programming.

Our children are our most valuable resource, and their pets are often the one thing that brings them joy and a sense of safety. Let’s not let them down.