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Animal Abuse and Human Violence:

Is there a link between animal abuse and war crimes?

This photo appeared in Maclean's Magazine. No animals were hurt.

He was a willing 'actor'!

The link between animal cruelty and human violence has been known for a long time.

Margaret Mead’s famous quote from 1964: “One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture and animal and get away with it.”

Paul Bernardo, Jeffrey Dahmer, Clifford Olson, and Marc Lepine all abused animals in their past. Of course, not all people who abuse animals will become serial killers, but the evidence shows that virtually all serial killers have a history of animal abuse.

And not all soldiers are/were animal abusers and consequently turn into cold-hearted murderers. But what little I can bear to hear and see (in the press) about the Russian invasion of Ukraine makes me wonder about some of the Russian soldiers.

The brutal violence against innocent civilians reminds me of my tenure as CEO, Ontario SPCA (1996-2003 (time flies)) and an article that appeared in Maclean’s, October 26, 1998, entitled ‘Seeing pet abuse as a warning’, by Barbara Wickens.

As you know, SPCA stands for “Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals”. The cases of animal abuse that the society dealt with were soul-destroying and I wanted to do more to prevent the cruelty. I read a lot about the link between animal cruelty and human violence. To cut a very long story short, I launched a violence prevention program. At the time, it was the first in Canada. As stated in the Maclean’s article: ‘Its goal is to establish better communications among the various organizations—social service, health, animal welfare, education, and legal and law enforcement—to help them intervene in time to prevent all types of abuse’. This involved a collaborative approach to cross-training and cross-reporting. The Ontario SPCA was often the first to be called out to an abusive situation, and with the necessary education, the investigators could contact other agencies if they suspected children or adults were also being abused/neglected in that household. And those agencies, in turn, could contact the Ontario SPCA if they suspected animal abuse in a home they had visited.

The Ontario SPCA’s Violence Prevention Coalition was set up to include representatives from women’s shelters in addition to those mentioned in the Maclean’s article (see above). We conducted a survey with the help of women’s shelters and found that more than 43% of women delayed leaving the abusive situation over concern for the safety of their pet. In response to these findings, we launched the Family Violence Assistance Program, which provided emergency shelter for abuse victims’ companion animals. (At the time, nearly all women’s shelters were unable to accept pets).

We also launched an annual violence prevention week to heighten awareness of the link. This included a ‘walk against violence’, a media launch/information kit, and a violence prevention conference. Part of the message asked people to help: by reporting suspected animal cruelty, teaching compassion and kindness towards animals, and becoming involved in community-based violence prevention initiatives.

So, we can all do a little to help reduce violence in the world by promoting animal welfare.

In the Meg Sheppard Mystery Series, Meg was previously the Executive Director of Vannersville Humane Society, and that’s where she met her beloved border collie, Kelly, who she adopted. Animal welfare, especially that of thoroughbred racehorses, is a theme throughout the series.

How we treat our animals reflects on the kind of human beings we are.

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Mahadma Gandhi.

I don’t know the backgrounds of those murderous Russian soldiers who have slaughtered men, women, children, and babies, but I wonder what the animals who have crossed their paths would say about them?

Vicky Earle Copyright 2022

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