Cruelty to animals: When animals are mistreated, people are often at risk too

animal torture
When animals are mistreated, people are often in danger too

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Cruelty to animals is cruel, often unexplainable and causes many people to feel depressed and sad. If a person mistreats an animal, they are not likely to do so to a human. +++ TW: This article discusses human and animal abuse.

Dog, cat or even horse: pets fill us with joy and give us all their love. But this is not always reciprocated, so veterinarians in particular see cases of animal cruelty to their four-legged friends when they come into practice with unusual injuries and wounds. Studies show how this relates to domestic violence against people, because those who torture animals often mistreat people as well. Looking at pets can help them respond more quickly to these violent acts.

Animal torture: The impact of domestic violence is not limited to people

Women and children are often affected by domestic violence, but animals also suffer violent outbursts from the person causing the problems. Animals that maintain a close relationship with humans are usually at particular risk. Problem: Animals cannot walk if mistreated. Usually they have to stay with the owners. British social worker James Stewart Hutton’s analysis showed that as early as 1983, neglect and abuse of pets also occurred in 88 percent of families in which domestic violence against children occurred. This suggests that animal cruelty is an indicator of general domestic violence. Women who have violent partners often stay with them if animals live in the house so as not to abandon their four-legged friends.

The role of the vet

If an animal is treated in a veterinary clinic showing unusual injuries, this may be the first indication of serious problems. In studying veterinary medicine, prospective doctors in Germany are now trained to recognize whether cuts and fractures are the result of accidents or malignant attacks. But they will not be ready to respond. And not many want to intervene when they realize that there is a much greater risk. Due to a lack of training, vets are often unable to provide sufficient evidence, know very little about domestic violence or are unsure of how to handle confidentiality in subjects such as these. But it is clear that they do not expose themselves to prosecution by reporting if significant and permanent injuries to the animal appear.

This is what it looks like in English-speaking countries

In Great Britain and the USA, researchers have long been aware of the link between violence against animals and humans. Research in this regard has led to increased awareness of veterinary practices and the implementation of closer links (so-called “linkages”) with social and health authorities.

Germany: Animals as Leading Indicators

In Germany, the number of violations against animals has remained roughly constant for years. About 6000 cases are reported annually. In children, 3,542 cases were reported in 2017. If there are also different institutions of communication in Germany, animals can be used as early indicators by checking if they are being abused, in order to focus on families. There is currently no contact between the authorities and veterinarians, so acts of violence against animals are only seen as such and are not pursued. Veterinarians do not have a duty to respond to this and there is a lack of contact with youth welfare offices, for example. Very few cases of animal violence are known to the authorities, but this information is important. If children live at home and abused pets come to vets, nothing similar is likely to happen to children in the home.

How are injuries classified?

Other forms of violence can also be transmitted to animals, says Thomas Stedel, head of the Chamber of Veterinarians in Baden-Württemberg. For example, there are cases of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, in which animals are intentionally injured so that their owners can appear as last-minute rescuers in a veterinary clinic. Infestation patterns that appear atypical for certain animal species can also be observed and are thus indicators. In addition, the owner also states if there are any problems. There are different clues: Has the vet changed frequently? Is the animal anxious when Ms. and Mr. are there? Do small animal owners often take new pets with them? These are all indicators of serious problems.

to accept help

If you have been affected by domestic violence, someone close to you or your pet, contact the appropriate points of contact. The Weisser Ring or Helpline can help. That I am not alone in this.

Source used: Violence against animals. Cruelty to animals as an indicator of violence against people (


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