An international expert on the link between abusing animals and abusing humans is urging stronger reporting systems between police and animal welfare agencies in order to help reduce violence.
Expert links animal abuse to human violence
AM - Saturday, 22 July , 2006 08:12:00
Reporter: Sarah Hawke
HAMISH ROBERTSON: Here at home, an international expert on the link between abusing animals and abusing humans is urging stronger reporting systems between police and animal welfare agencies in order to help reduce violence.
Professor Frank Ascione, from Utah State University in the United States, says people charged with animal abuse offences are more likely to inflict violence on humans than people who've never abused an animal.
Speaking in Darwin this week, Professor Ascione says stronger relations between the New South Wales Police and the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) are an example for the rest of Australia.
Sarah Hawke reports.
SARAH HAWKE: Professor Frank Ascione has been involved in extensive research into links between animal cruelty and other crimes like violence and drug abuse.
Professor Ascione says children who are mistreated are up to three times more likely to abuse animals.
He cites studies in the US, Canada and Australia where over half the victims who have gone to women's shelters have reported that their pet has been either hurt or killed by their partners.
Professor Ascione says people prosecuted for serious animal abuse are up to five times more likely to have been arrested for other serious crimes.
FRANK ASCIONE: So very clearly, knowing that someone has a history of animal abuse is a red flag that there may be other criminal activity separate from animal abuse present in that person's background.
SARAH HAWKE: Professor Ascione advocates laws allowing vets to report animal injuries to authorities when they suspect child abuse or domestic violence is also involved.
And this is happening in New South Wales.
Last year community anger over viscous attacks on kittens in Sydney prompted the formation of a police and animal welfare taskforce and tougher laws for animal cruelty.
Chief vet with the RSPCA, Mark Lawrie, says an increase in the flow of information between police and the organisation is paying off.
MARK LAWRIE: We provide information to their intelligence system, called COPS, and that information can be used. I'll give you an example of it. It goes into the general intelligence; if they're looking for a suspect for a certain crime, they'll go and look at the information that they have, say, within a given area, and if they have it flagged that there's violence to animals there and concomitant violence to people is the crime that's occurring, they can get a list of suspects and then they can rank those people.
So someone with a history of violence to animals might go higher up the list.
SARAH HAWKE: Do you think in the future you could get to the extent of preventing crimes?
MARK LAWRIE: Well, I think we're doing that now.
SARAH HAWKE: Police commissioners and animal welfare agencies in other states and territories are looking at the New South Wales model.
Professor Ascione says it's the right move to reducing animal and human abuse.
HAMISH ROBERTSON: Sarah Hawke reporting.