There is increasing research and clinical evidence which suggests that there are sometimes inter-relationships, commonly referred to as ‘the links’, between the abuse of children, vulnerable adults and animals.
A better understanding of these links can help to protect victims, both human and animal, and promote their welfare. There is now increasing cooperation and cross-referral among child and animal protection professionals who have recognised these links. The body of evidence linking animal abuse to human violence is also growing.
Women who have decided to leave their partners as a consequence of an abusive relationship sometimes face additional difficulties in terms of what might happen to their pets. In these situations, pets can be a great source of comfort for woman, children and families and to be separated from them or to have to give them up can be very distressing, particularly during such a traumatic transition. Many women feel trapped in their situation, fearing for the safety of the family pet if they were to leave the relationship without taking the pet.
Support for pet owners
An increasing number of ‘pet fostering’ organisations in the UK now offer services that place pets in a volunteer foster carer’s home until their owner is able to be reunited with them.
Refuge lists services offered by the RSPCA, Dogs Trust, Paws for Kids and Scottish SPCA, to ensure pets are cared for on a volunteer foster carer’s home until their owner is able to be reunited with them.
Advice for professionals
A multi-agency group was formed in 2002 called ‘The Links Group’. Its aim is to raise awareness of the links and act as a network for the exchange of ideas, research and practical developments. A leaflet, Understanding the Links, produced by this group and updated in 2005, explains what actions to take if professionals have concerns about the abuse of animals or children, and suggests ways in which the links can be incorporated in working practices eg cross-reporting.