Office of the Prosecuting Attorney
Animal Abuse... The Link to Domestic Violence
Is there a connection between animal abuse and domestic violence? Consider these cases.
- Kip Kinkel, 15, opened fire on his classmates in the school cafeteria in Springfield, Oregon, in May, 1998, killing two classmates and leaving 22 others injured. Later that day, police found his parents shot to death in their home. Friends and family reported that Kinkel had a history of animal abuse and torture: decapitating cats, dissecting live squirrels, and blowing up cows. (Humane Society of the United States and PYSETA)
- Andrew Golden, 11, shot and killed four students and one teacher in Jonesboro, Arkansas in March, 1998. He was known for shooting dogs with a .22. (Humane Society of the United States)
- Luke Woodham, 16, stabbed his mother to death then went to high school and shot and killed two classmates and injured seven others in Pearl, Mississippi, in October, 1997. He kept a personal journal prior to the killings, writing how he and an accomplice beat, burned, and tortured his dog, Sparkle, to death. He said it was "true beauty". (Humane Society of United States)
- Francine Hughes, whose domestic violence was captured in "The Burning Bed", reported animal abuse in her home. She describes how her husband wrung her child's cat's neck, breaking it with his two hands. She also tells of her batterer's refusal to allow the family dog Lady to be assisted while she was giving birth. (The Burning Bed by Faith McNulty, Bantam, 1981)
Animal abuse is often found in homes where there is domestic violence and/or child abuse. In one national survey of women seeking shelter from domestic violence in safe houses, 83% of women with companion animals reported that heir batterers had also hurt or threatened the family pet. (The Abuse of Animals and Domestic Violence, "Society and Animals", 1997, 5(3), Frank R. Ascione)
For families suffering with domestic violence, the use or threat of abuse against companion animals is used for leverage by the controlling and violent member of the family to keep others in line. The abuser may kill or threaten to kill pets to coerce victims into sexual abuse or into remaining silent about abuse. Victims are often resistant to entering safe shelters, fearing what may happen to pets who are left at home with the abuser.
Veterinarians are beginning to play a larger role in the reporting of abuse. They are learning to look for warning signs in pets. For example, if there is a household where many animals live but none ever reach the age of two, then something bad is going on. The other more obvious signs are injuries to pets that don't match up to the story being told by the pet owner.
Check with your local shelter to see if they have a program to shelter pets. If pets are a priority, be sure to include their safety in your safety plan.
The Kalamazoo Prosecutor's Office takes animal abuse seriously. If the evidence exists, charges will be issued against those who abuse animals. Michigan law currently allows for misdemeanor and felony charges against people who abandon or are cruel to animals. Penalties range from up to 93 days in jail to up to 4 years in prison. Report any acts of animal abuse to police.