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June 8, 2004 > Animal Cruelty Is Family Violence

Animal Cruelty Is Family Violence

by Nancy Lyon

Almost everyone agrees that our society should respond to acts of animal cruelty in a forceful and proper manner simply out of concern for the feelings and welfare of the animals involved. But there is another reason that is at least as important - human domestic violence and elder abuse.

There is a strong direct connection between animal cruelty and human violence. Recently the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) emphasized the theme "Animal Cruelty IS Family Violence" and documented the direct relationship between animal abuse to family and elder abuse.

Young people who live in an abusive situation at home can express their frustrations and alienation by being cruel to animals. Young people who are cruel to animals can later be abusive to their spouses, other family members, and others in society. Serial killers such as Ted Bundy and Jeffery Daimler, and the killer of Polly Klaas had a history of animal abuse.

Of course, most young people who commit an act of animal cruelty are not on the road to becoming serial killers. The recent "prank" at American High School involving the release of 50 mice was less a deliberately planned act of cruelty than an unthinking and irresponsible act that had cruel consequences. Hopefully by this time the perpetrators have had time to reflect on their actions, and will behave more responsibly, more maturely, and more humanely in the future. But what if they need some guidance to achieve this goal?

Of more concern than the act itself, is the response by the other students, school administrators, Fremont Animal Services, and the community at large.

While a few students responded horrifically to the situation, some responded with admiral compassion and humanity. Which group will the other students look to as their models for their future behavior? Will it become a "cool" thing to do if authorities choose to continue to underplay the seriousness of what occurred?

The response of school administrators and Fremont Animal Services to such acts must be twofold:

First, the morality and ethics of our society as expressed in our laws and regulations must be administered effectively so that future potential perpetrators do not feel that these laws and regulations are not enforced and can therefore be ignored. State Penal Code 597 directly addresses animal cruelty as evidenced in this case. Also, there is the question of the legality and morality of the source that provided such a large number of mice to teenagers.

Second, to end the cycle of violence, it is essential that guidance and counselling be provided to all of the students affected both directly and indirectly. This is an important opportunity for school officials to discuss violence toward animals, the immorality of it, and its direct relationship to human abuse.

As of this writing it is unclear what the response of our community as a whole will be to this event. What do you think? What can you do to help?

HSUS's First Strike campaign emphasizes reaching out to teens in an effort to help stop animal cruelty. They provide advice on what teens can do if they witness animal abuse. Information on this program is available at firststrike@hsus.org. You can also call First Strike at 1-888-213-0956. The HSUS 2003 Report of Animal Cruelty Cases, Safe Haven for Animals online database, and other information that is available on their website at www.hsus.org.

 
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