Letter: Kudos to Jessica Whitt of Harmony Middle School on her recent article regarding the connection between animal abuse and Interpersonal Violence. As with any cultural shift, our youth are the foundation in creating the lasting change we seek to impart.
In 2014, the Federal Bureau of Investigation acknowledged the importance of animal abuse as an indicator to future violence by announcing they would add animal abuse to its Uniform Crime Reports (UCR). The collection would occur through the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS), including animal abuse as a Group A offense (in the same group as murder, rape, arson, etc.). As I am sure the FBI employs a large number of animal lovers, the inclusion of animal abuse in the UCR was not based on the love of animals but rather on the fact that the leading law enforcement agency in the nation understands that animals, specifically our pets, are sentinels to familial and societal violence. The collection of the data regarding these incidents began Jan. 1 2016, with the first year of collection wrapping up Dec. 31, 2016. There are collection challenges; in that not every law enforcement agency in the U.S. reports through NIBRS (Loudoun County does report its criminal incidents through NIBRS). Even more challenging is the ability for animal control organizations, like Loudoun County Animal Services, that are not connected to a law enforcement department, to repot data, even though they often field the majority of animal complaints. This, too, is changing, as a uniform reporting form was just established this month, largely in part by the National Animal Control Association and requires a NIBRS reporting law enforcement agency’s cooperation and/or a Memorandum of Understanding to collect data from animal control agencies.
The true victory, however, for the animals and our community is the acknowledgement by law enforcement and articles like Jessica’s.
As an employee and trainer for The Humane Society of the United States, co-founder of Loudoun County’s Stop Abuse and Violence Effort, former animal control officer, former police officer and founder of Abuse Cannot be Tolerated, I train thousands of law enforcement officers, social workers, teachers and prosecutors nationally and internationally regarding what is commonly referred to as The Link. The Link is the connection that exists between animal abuse, child abuse, domestic violence and elder abuse. The interconnection of all these forms of violence is nothing new, St. Thomas Aquinas spoke of it in the 1700s, “to kill a bird with its young, this is to remove man’s thoughts from being cruel to other men, and lest through being cruel to other animals one becomes cruel to human beings.” Abraham Lincoln, “I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.” We have all heard the horror stories of Jeffery Dahmer, Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz and countless other mass murders that abused and tortured animals in their youth. We need to understand, however, that animal abuse is an indicator for all crime not just the sensational serial killings. As Jessica points out, animal abuse and family violence go hand in hand. Studies indicate that upwards of 62 percent of battered woman will not leave a violent relationship for fear their pet will be harmed or killed. Research also indicates that approximately 48 percent of school shooters have abused animals prior to committing their horrendous acts and school bullies are twice as likely to have abused animals as their non-bullying peers. Other research indicates that children that witness animal abuse, not perpetrate it, are 8 times more likely to commit crimes against human beings.
My message when training law enforcement officers, as a former law enforcement officer myself, is simple: You don’t have to love animals or even like animals for that matter but you have to respect the role animals play in familial and societal safety or else you are not doing your job to the fullest extent. Jessica’s message is clear and it is the slogan for ACT, Safe Animals, Safer Community.
Way to go Jessica, keep up the great work.
Chris Brosan, Leesburg
Abuse Cannot be Tolerated focuses on education, communication and forming working relationships to combat violence, regardless of the victim. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.act4any.com for training opportunities.