Pet Abuse Disconnect

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"Why," the caller wanted to know, "are you giving so much space to Michael Vick and those dogs when there are children being killed?" Child abuse, she said, is so much more important than dog fighting—those are only animals, and humans are being abused and killed. Isn't that more important?

Pet Abuse Disconnect

August 14, 2007

 
  ©iStockphoto
  Children and animals share a vulnerability to abuse.
By Tim White, The Fayetteville Observer

Editor's note: This piece originally appeared on August 5 in The Fayetteville Observer and is reprinted here with permission.

"Why," the caller wanted to know, "are you giving so much space to Michael Vick and those dogs when there are children being killed?" Child abuse, she said, is so much more important than dog fighting—those are only animals, and humans are being abused and killed. Isn't that more important?

I've heard variations on that question from callers, e-mailers and letter-to-the-editor writers.

We've got a big disconnect. If we don't fix it, things could get worse for those abused kids.

The NFL star's arrest on dog-fighting charges put a spotlight on a violent, disgusting subculture that is rife with horrifically abusive treatment of animals. Animal lovers are appalled and angered by the revelations.

But others would prefer the spotlight on the equally horrific problem of child abuse—a problem that gets headlines here in the Observer with alarming regularity.

I wish more people in both camps would get that they're fighting the same problem. Animal abuse and child abuse—violence against humans of all ages—are tightly linked.

Consider:

  • Nearly three-quarters of pet-owning battered women entering shelters report threats or actual violence toward their animals too.
  • The FBI sees animal cruelty as a predictor of violence and considers animal abuse when profiling serial killers.
  • More than 80 percent of families in treatment for child abuse were also involved in animal abuse.
  • A survey of the country's 50 largest shelters for battered women found 85 percent of women and 63 percent of children entering the shelters reported pet abuse in the family.
  • One study found that 70 percent of animal abusers have also committed at least one other criminal offense; 40 percent had committed violent crimes against people.
  • That same study tracked animal abusers for two decades and found those who abused animals in their youth were five times more likely to commit violent crimes.
  • And study after study shows that children in abusive homes tend to become pet abusers. And so the cycle begins in the next generation.

I could go on. The studies and statistics are plentiful and scary. The link between animal abuse and human abuse is established beyond doubt. Those people who treat animals with violence are just as likely to treat their fellow man, woman and child the same way.

Many members of Congress get it. They see the link. That's one reason why they voted overwhelmingly last spring for the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act of 2007. The measure had 303 House co-sponsors. It passed the House by a 368-39 vote. It passed the Senate by unanimous consent.

It's puzzling and worrisome that one of our local lawmakers, Rep. Robin Hayes, was one of the 39 negative votes. Apparently, he still doesn't get it.

But the majority saw to it that when Michael Vick and his friends come to trial, they will face tougher federal penalties.

Maybe we, as a nation, are beginning to get the logic behind Gandhi's wisdom: "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

©2007 The Fayetteville (NC) Observer. Reprinted with permission.