Animal Cruelty and Family Violence

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           Animal Cruelty
           and Family Violence
Reporting Animal
Cruelty in Alberta

To report animal abuse or neglect
in Alberta, call the appropriate
animal welfare organization:

In Calgary, call the Calgary Humane
Society at 250-7722

In Edmonton, call the Edmonton
SPCA at 471-1774 ext. 4

In Fort McMurray, call the Fort
McMurray SPCA at 743-8997

In all other areas of Alberta, call
the Alberta SPCA at
Animal Cruelty: More reasons
to take it seriously

What is animal cruelty?
The phrase “animal cruelty” encompasses a variety of behaviours
harmful to animals, ranging from neglect to malicious torture and
killing. Most cases investigated by Animal Protection Officers involve
unintentional neglect; these can often be resolved through education
of the animal owner or caretaker. Intentional cruelty can be either         contents
wilful or reckless neglect (i.e., the deliberate withholding of food,
water, shelter, socialization or care) or malicious cruelty (the torture,   n   Animal Cruelty:
mutilation, maiming or killing of an animal).                                   More Reasons to
                                                                                take it Seriously 1
Why is animal cruelty important?                                            n Animal Abuse    and
Deliberate cruelty to animals is a form of violence. Besides being              Family Violence: the
harmful to a living creature capable of suffering and feeling pain,             Local Situation 2
intentional animal cruelty can be one of the earliest and most
                                                                            n   Animal Protection
dramatic indicators that an individual is developing a pattern of
                                                                                Laws 3
seeking power and control by inflicting suffering on others.
                                                                            n   Information
Is there a link between cruelty to animals                                      for Concerned
and human violence?                                                             Citizens 4
                                                                            n   Information for
Yes. There’s an increasing body of studies and empirical evidence that
                                                                                Service Providers 5
suggest there are definite links between animal cruelty and human
violence. Many studies in Canada and the U.S. have demonstrated this        n   Information for
connection. Some of the key findings are:                                        Victims of Domestic
n violent offenders frequently have histories of serious and repeated           Violence 6
   animal cruelty in their childhood and adolesence.
                                                                            n   Information for
n cruelty to animals is widely recognized as a warning sign that a
   child may need help to prevent further violence.                             Veterinarians 7
n family pets are often targets in domenstic violence, and threats of       n   Information for Law
   violence toward a pet are often used as a means of control by an             Enforcers and
   abusive spouse.                                                              Prosecutors 7
n many victims of domestic violence remain in an abusive situation
   out of concern for the safety of their pet.                              n   Information for
                                                                                Educators 8

                               Animal Abuse and Family Violence:
                               the Local Situation

                               In a (2001) collaborative study1 (the Calgary Humane Society,YWCA Family
                               Violence Prevention Centre, researcher Sue C. McIntosh and supported by
                               RESOLVE Alberta) of 100 women in shelters who owned pets:
                               n 25% delayed leaving an abusive situation out of fear of what would happen to
                                  their pet. (In an earlier Hamilton study, the number was 48%).
                               n 56% reported that their abuser either threatened to and/or actually hurt
                                  their pet. (61% in Hamilton).
                               n 21% were aware that their abuser had abused animals as a child or
                               Of those women with both children and pets, who stated their partner had
                               abused their pet:
                               n 65% reported that their children were aware that their pets were being
                               n 65% believed that their children were impacted by the abuse of their pets.
                               n 59% talked with their children about their pets being hurt or threatened, but
                                 only 19% discussed the impact of such abuse with anyone else (6% discussed
                  Notes          it with a counsellor or social service worker).
        1 McIntosh, Sue. C.
    (2001) Research Study:     Studies conducted in other parts of Canada2 indicate a similar situation. In a
        Exploring the Links    Winnipeg Study, 78% of those charged with animal cruelty had also been
     between Animal Abuse      charged with violence or threats of violence against people. Over 60% of 39
     and Family Violence, as   women who had been abused by their partners and were living in women’s
       reported by Women       shelters in Hamilton and Owen Sound said their pets had either been abused
        entering Shelters in   or killed by their partners.
      Calgary Communities
    (used with permission).
                               Victims tell their stories
      2 As reported by the     Although statistics are important in demonstrating the magnitude of a situation,
    Canadian Federation of     it is also important to listen to the voices of those affected. Those involved in
        Humane Societies       the Calgary study were surveyed and their comments are very revealing.
                               Regarding the decision to enter a shelter, one participant stated that once she
                               entered the shelter her cat disappeared and she subsequently received
                               photographs in which the cat appeared to have been killed. Another woman
                               noted that her partner threatened to hurt or kill her pets, and when she
                               entered the shelter her cats went missing.
                               In terms of violence witnessed, one participant reported that her partner shot
                               the family dog in plain view of his four-year-old son. Another woman indicated
                               that her children hated their father for hurting the family dog, and felt bad
                               because the dog was trying to protect her.
                               Other participants noted a change in their children’s behaviour after witnessing
                               abuse of their pets by a family member. One noted that her son became more
                               hurtful to others, withdrawn and emotional. Another stated that her young son
                               began to show traits similar to those of her abusive partner, and had a “total
                               disregard for life, even humans.” Yet another participant noted that her children
                               “hurt animals when they are angry, because they think this is normal, because
                               they don’t realize it can be different.”
Animal Protection Laws

What are the Laws Protecting Animals?
Animal Protection is offered under both provincial legislation and the
Criminal Code of Canada. Alberta’s Animal Protection Act (APA)
protects animals in distress due to neglect or abuse from their owner
or caretaker. The Criminal Code refers to acts of cruelty or neglect,
either by the animals' owner or by someone else.
In some cases of domestic violence where there is animal abuse in
addition to spousal or child abuse, the animal abuse may be easier to
prove or more readily reported by a victim or witness.

Alberta’s Animal Protection Act
                                                                           At the time of writing
Section 2(1) of the Animal Protection Act (APA) states that “No
                                                                           (March 2002) a
person shall cause or permit an animal of which he is the owner or
                                                                           proposed amendment
the person ordinarily in charge to be or to continue to be in distress.”
                                                                           to the Animal Cruelty
In the Act, an animal in distress is one that is:                          sections of the
(a) depriv ed of adequate food, water, care or shelter,                    Criminal Code of
(b) injur ed, sick, in pain or suffering, or                               Canada (CCC) is
(c) abused or subjected to undue har dship, privation or neglect.          before Parliament.
                                                                           These sections
In Alberta, Special Constables from the Alberta SPCA, Calgary              (written in 1892) are
Humane Society, Edmonton SPCA and Fort McMurray SPCA are                   contained in the part
authorized by Alberta Justice to enforce the APA. Penalties under the      of the Code dealing
APA include prohibition of an animal and/or fines of up to $20,000.         with "Wilful and
                                                                           Forbidden Acts in
Criminal Code of Canada                                                    Respect of Certain
Sections 444 to 447 of the current Criminal Code of Canada deal            Property." The
with cruelty to animals. Most convictions for animal cruelty are under     proposed amendment
section 446:                                                               would move animal
446 (1) Every one commits an offence who                                   cruelty legislation to
(a) wilfully causes or, being the owner, wilfully permits to be caused     its own section, and
unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal...                      increase the
                                                                           maximum penalties.
Other subsections refer to wilful neglect, abandonment, poisoning, and
other specific offences.
Cases covered by the CCC are usually investigated by Community
Police or the RCMP, often in consultation with the appropriate SPCA
or Humane Society. For a summary conviction offence under this
section of the Criminal Code of Canada, the maximum penalty that a
judge can impose is a $2000 fine and/or 6 months in jail.

                            Information for
                            Concerned Citizens

                            Why should I take animal cruelty seriously?
                            First of all, animals are sentient beings that can suffer and feel pain.
                            People who own or care for animals have a responsibility to ensure their
                            needs are met and minimize any suffering they may experience.
                            Furthermore, cruel treatment of animals is deemed by our society to be
                            unacceptable – that’s why we have laws that prohibit animal cruelty.
                            Another reason to take animal cruelty seriously is the growing body of
                            evidence that links animal cruelty to human violence. Research has
                            shown that violent offenders frequently have childhood and adolescent
                            histories of serious and repeated animal cruelty. Recent studies have also
                            shown that often when animal cruelty occurs, there is also family
                            violence – i.e., child abuse, spousal abuse and elder abuse.

                            What can I do about suspected animal abuse?
                            If you have cause to believe there is animal abuse occurring in your
                            community, you should call the appropriate SPCA or humane society for
                            your area. Discuss your concerns and observations – the staff who take
                            the calls share your concern and will help to identify the nature of the
    Children                situation and the appropriate response.Your call will be treated in
    who report              confidence, though your name and contact information will need to be
    witnessing              taken in case further information is needed. On rare occasions (if cases
    violence of any         go to court) you may need to provide written or verbal testimony.
    kind should be
    listened to and their   Outside of regular office hours, call the Alberta SPCA's toll free number
    statements taken        (1-800-455-9003) to get recorded instructions for how to proceed. If
    seriously. If they      you wish, you can call your local police or RCMP.
    report a child who is
    abusing animals, this   What happens when I make a complaint?
    should be reported      All calls will be investigated as soon as possible. Depending on the nature
    to an animal welfare    and severity of the situation reported, it may be handled in a variety of
    and/or social service   ways. Charges may be laid or the situation may be resolved through
    agency.                 educational means. Police may be called in if there is evidence of possible
                            child abuse.

                            What can I tell my children about animal cruelty?
                            Tell your children that animal cruelty is never acceptable. Children may
                            go through a phase where they are curious about their effects on
                            animals and may, for example, kill insects. Unless they have good reason,
                            children should never be allowed to kill or harm animals without some
                            consequences. Without intervention, children who abuse animals may
                            become involved in bullying, vandalism and other anti-social behaviours
                            that could escalate to serious violence later in life.

Information for Service

Why should I be concerned about animal cruelty?
Cruelty to pets within a home is an example of domestic violence.
Not only that, but it is often accompanied by other forms of violence
and abuse – such as child abuse, spousal abuse and elder abuse.               What is being done
                                                                              to help?
Sometimes animal protection laws may be more helpful or easier to
prove. They could be more likely to be reported – e.g., an abused             In many communities,
spouse or child may find it easier to disclose animal cruelty than             SPCAs and humane
mistreatment of themselves or another family member. The evidence             societies are working
of animal cruelty may be more readily observed and lead to an                 together with
investigation that uncovers other forms of abuse.                             emergency shelters to
                                                                              find temporary
There is a growing awareness that young people who deliberately
                                                                              accommodation for
abuse animals are at risk of developing other violent tendencies. The
                                                                              pets. Both the Calgary
DSM-IV lists animal cruelty as a symptom indicative of Conduct
                                                                              Humane Society and
Disorder. In Alberta, the Task Force on Children at Risk noted in its April
                                                                              the Red Deer and
2000 report Start Young, Start Now! that cruelty to animals is a warning
                                                                              District SPCA are
sign that a child may need help to prevent further violence. There is
                                                                              cooperating with local
also some indication that children who witness cruelty to animals may
                                                                              agencies to house pets
demonstrate more aggressive behaviours.
                                                                              and encourage cross-
                                                                              reporting between
How does animal cruelty impact victims                                        agencies. However,
of domestic violence?                                                         much work needs to
For many victims of domestic violence, their relationship to their pet        be done in this area.
is their strongest positive connection with another living being. In          Social workers and
abusive relationships, pets are often targeted by the abusive partner         other support
and threatened or killed in order to exert power and maintain                 workers should
control over the victim. Furthermore, since emergency shelters are            recognize that lack of
often unable to accommodate pets, many victims (up to 50% in some             facilities to house pets
studies) delay leaving an abusive situation out of fear for what might        can be a big stumbling
happen to their pet.                                                          block that prevents
                                                                              abuse victims from
What can I do to help?                                                        leaving violent
If you are counselling someone considering leaving an abusive                 situations.
situation, ask if they own a pet and if so, if they have made provisions
for the pet’s care. Add questions about pets to your intake form. Look
into forming links with your local SPCA/humane society to develop
protocols for cross-reporting or cross-training. Become more
informed – see the bibliography at the end of this document, or
contact the Alberta SPCA or your local SPCA/humane society.

    Information for Victims of
    Domestic Violence

    What can I do if my pet is being threatened?
    If a pet is being threatened, you can take some steps to protect it before
    it is abused. One possibility is to remove it from the home; ask friends or
    trusted family members if they would be willing to care for your pet
    temporarily.You can also contact your local SPCA or humane society to
    see if any foster homes for animals exist in your community.You may
    need to contact a boarding kennel to make arrangements to have your
    pet boarded.
    If you anticipate having your pet housed at a kennel or other facility, keep
    your veterinarian bills and pet licence receipt handy. Not only will they
    demonstrate up-to-date vaccinations, but they will also help prove
    ownership of the pet.

    What can I do if my pet has been abused?
    If a pet has been deliberately hurt, stolen or deprived of care, you can
    report it either to the police or to the appropriate SPCA or humane
    society. They will investigate the situation and take appropriate action.

    Will an abuser only hurt the pet?
    If someone punches, kicks, throws or hurts an animal in any way, that
    person has demonstrated the capacity for violence.You cannot assume
    that the violence will stop there. If your partner has harmed or seriously
    threatened your pet, you and your children may also be in danger.

    What effect does animal abuse have on my children?
    Some victims of domestic violence have reported that their children
    have become more aggressive after witnessing animal cruelty in the
    home. Children sometimes behave more cruelly to animals, and often
    become more hurtful to others (for example, bullying) or withdrawn and
    emotional. It’s important when talking to a counsellor that you mention
    any animal abuse that has occurred.

Information for Law Enforcers
and Prosecutors

How does animal cruelty fit the profile of violent criminals?
In the United States, the FBI identifies animal cruelty as one of a
cluster of juvenile behaviours associated with increasingly violent
behaviour and uses animal cruelty in analyzing the threat potential of
suspected and known criminals. The FBI has recognized the
connection since the 1970s, when bureau analysis of the life histories
of imprisoned serial killers suggested that most, as children, had killed
or tortured animals. Other research has shown consistent patterns of
more common forms of violence, including child abuse, spousal abuse,
and elder abuse.

Is animal cruelty recognized as a sign of mental disorder?
Yes. In The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
(DSM-IV), the American Psychiatric Association lists animal cruelty as      Who can help with
one of the behaviours signalling conduct disorder. Clinical evidence        animal-cruelty
indicates that animal cruelty is one of the symptoms usually seen at        cases?
the earliest stages of conduct disorder, often by the age of eight.         Crimes against animals
                                                                            are not isolated
                                                                            events. In working to
                                                                            prevent crime and
Information for Veterinarians                                               prosecute those who
                                                                            commit crimes, a
Can I report suspected animal cruelty or am I bound by                      comprehensive
confidentiality?                                                             approach is essential.
A veterinarian should report animal cruelty to the appropriate SPCA         The Alberta SPCA or
or humane society, or to the police. The membership of the Alberta          your community’s
Veterinary Medical Association recently passed an amendment to the          SPCA/humane society
regulations of the Veterinary Profession Act, which states that a           may be able to provide
veterinarian is exempted from confidentiality requirements upon              specific animal-related
“becoming aware of inhumane or negligent treatment, in which case is        information and
morally and ethically authorized to report to the proper authorities.”      advice.

The trend among veterinary associations across North America is to
encourage veterinarians to report suspected animal abuse. In some
U.S. states the release of information in such cases is allowed; in other
states it is obligatory. Some states are considering requiring
veterinarians to report suspected animal abuse to Social Services.

What else can be done to help victims of domestic
You can help out victims of domestic violence by offering to
temporarily care for a pet, or to help find suitable accommodations. Be
aware that concern for a family pet often keeps a victim of domestic
violence from leaving an abusive situation.

                         Information for Educators

                         Why is it important to address animal cruelty by children?
                         Children who are allowed to harm animals without penalty are more
                         likely to commit violent acts later in life. Children who abuse animals are
                         more likely to be involved in bullying, vandalism, and more serious crimes.

                         What should I do if a child discloses animal cruelty?
                         You can start by contacting the Alberta SPCA or your local
Where can I get          SPCA/humane society. Our staff can discuss the case with you to
information and          determine appropriate action. If warranted, an Animal Protection Officer
resources?               will investigate and work to protect the animal.

The Alberta SPCA's       Sometimes an educational approach may be more appropriate. We could
Education                provide a speaker to address a specific issue, or to give a more general
Department publishes     presentation about the humane treatment of animals.
resources, maintains a   Child welfare authorities should also be informed. Social workers are
lending library and      becoming more aware of the fact that animal abuse can be an indicator of
can provide speakers.    other problems in the home.
You can get a free
subscription to          How can I encourage students to treat animals properly?
AnimalWise, a            The principles of Humane Education can be adopted to promote a circle
newsletter for           of caring that includes both people and animals. Through its approach and
teachers in Alberta,     subject content, humane education promotes an understanding of the
which will keep you      human responsibility to care for – and about – all living things and the
informed and updated     earth we share.You can practice humane education by looking for ways
on issues and            to include examples of kindness in all your subject areas. Most
resources.Your           importantly, model kindness and respect to your students through your
community SPCA or        actions, words, and choice of teaching methods and resources.
humane society may
also have an
education program.
Contact them for
more information.

                                                                         The following resources are
                                                                         suggested for further reading.
                                                                         All are available at the Alberta
                                                                         SPCA library.

                                                                         Ascione, Frank R. and P.Arkow, editors. Child Abuse,
                                                                         Domestic Violence, and Animal Abuse: Linking the Circles
                                                                         of Compassion for Prevention and Intervention. West
                                                                         Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1999. 479 pp.
                                                                         Lockwood, R. and F. R.Ascione, editors. Cruelty to
                                                                         Animals and Interpersonal Violence: Readings in
                                                                         Research and Application. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue
                                                                         University Press, 1998. 452 pp.
                                                                         Ascione, Frank R. Safe Havens for Pets: Guidelines for
                                                                         Programs Sheltering Pets for Women who are Battered.
                                                                         Logan, Utah: Utah State University, 2000. 295 pp.
                                                                         Zimmerman, E. and S. Lewchanin. Community
                                                                         Intervention in Juvenile Animal Cruelty: A Screening and
                                                                         Referral Tool. Brunswick ME: Biddle Publishing Co.,
                                                                         2000. 25 pp.
                                                                         Lewchanin, S. and E. Zimmerman. Clinical Assessment
                                                                         of Juvenile Animal Cruelty. Brunswick ME: Biddle
                                                                         Publishing Co., 2000. 66 pp.
                                                                         Duel, Debra K. Violence Prevention and Intervention: A
                                                                         Directory of Animal-Related Programs. Washington
                                                                         D.C.:The Humane Society of The United States,
                                                                         2000. 82 pp.
                                                                         Ehrhardt, J., editor. A Training Guide for Recognizing
                                                                         and Reporting Child Abuse for Animal Control Officers
                                                                         and Humane Investigators. Englewood, CO:American
                                                                         Humane Association, 1995. 69 pp.

                                                                         The Cruelty Connection – a segment from CTV’s W5
                                                                         series that examines the connection between
                                                                         animal abusers and domestic violence, child abuse,
                                        For more information on our      rape and murder. It includes interviews with victims,
                                      education program and the link     abusers and a serial killer. (17 minutes; 2001)
                                   between animal cruelty and human      Breaking the Cycles of Violence – This production by
                                        violence, contact the Alberta    the Latham Foundation examines how victims of
                                                                         violence are more likely to abuse children and
                                            SPCA Humane Education        animals, and demonstrates ways that human and
                                                         Department:     animal service organizations can work together to
                                                                         reduce the tangled web of violence. (26 minutes;
                                                   The Alberta SPCA      1995)
                                                                         Beyond Violence: the Human-Animal Connection – This
                                                  10806-124 Street       video examines the link between animal abuse and
                                            Edmonton, AB T5M 0H3         human violence, and depicts the many ways in
                                                                         which animals foster and support human
                                                     (780) 447-3600      development. (14 minutes; 1999)

                                              or visit our website at:

To report an animal in distress call the Alberta SPCA Animal Protection Department at 1-800-455-9003
                                                                            Together we can
                                                                            break the cycle of

Published by the Alberta Society for the   This document was produced
   Prevention of Cruelty to Animals        and distributed with the
      (Alberta SPCA), March 2002.
                                           assistance of the Public Legal
                                           Education Network of Alberta
     10806-124 Street
                                           and Department of Justice
  Edmonton, AB T5M 0H3
   Phone (780) 447-3600