Is animal abuse an indicator of domestic violence?

The rates of co-occurrence between domestic violence and animal abuse reported varied between 25% and 86%. Furthermore, children who were abused, exposed to domestic violence, or animal abuse were at risk of developing criminal behavior.

[Excerpt from the abstract of ‘The connection between animal abuse and interpersonal violence: A review from the veterinary perspective.” Science Direct: Research in Veterinary Science]


37 thoughts on “Is animal abuse an indicator of domestic violence?”

  1. This came up in conversation just yesterday. The person I was talking with said, “Do you find that animal abuse is associated with domestic abuse?” I said, “In almost every case I know about. The animals are killed or neglected or get their legs broken or something. In one case, the young woman escaped her abusive dad when she turned 18, and when she came back with a police escort to get her things, he had left her pet’s body on the front lawn for her to see.” Many, many more stories where that came from. Some in “Unholy Charade”.

    1. My niece who is from a Mormon family, and I only mention that because they would never put the word “abuse” to this, she got divorced from a man that called her to tell her instead of putting her three adored cats to the shelter, he took them to the back yard and shot them.
      He told her this over the phone when she was 3000 miles away.

      But Naaaah, that was not “Abuse” ???????

  2. Abuse of or killing an animal sends a person very quickly up the psychological scale of being extremely dangerous. Once I let my counselor know my abuser killed my cat, she sent me to another source for help, told me how dangerous that made him and her increased fear for me and my kids, expressed her concerns about him paying her a visit and then left her practice. That’s how scary that is!

    The danger scale climbs for many things, but killing animals or abusing them, shoots a person to the top of that scale.

    This is one area to note in others, how they treat animals and children.

  3. My thought is that ALL animal abusers, because they lack compassion toward living creatures, and are willing to inflict pain out of anger, display of power or sadistic amusement, are invariably also abusive in their human relationships.

    However some abusers of people may not bother to hurt animals. Some abusers may even play the part of “animal / nature lover” as part of their image management in the community.

    My own experience was with an abusive father who had a sick, lifetime obsession with animals.

    He lived on a farm before marrying my mother; throughout our family life he brought home all kinds of animals that became beloved pets (to my mom and us kids). But then he would beat some of them, or others would mysteriously end up missing or dead in our backyard. He always denied involvement in these mysteries with major gaslighting.

    But finally toward the end of his life he revealed himself by admitting to a family member that when he was a young man living on the family farm, he physically abused the livestock when they “wouldn’t listen to me” (think maim, beat, kill).

    1. What you write rings so sickeningly true, Songs of Joy. The whole “impression management” game of pretending to be an animal lover. The whole, “he always denied involvement in these mysteries with major gaslighting.” As well as the whole ‘justification’ of why he went about abusing the livestock……..because they…….. “wouldn’t listen to me”.

      Impression Management
      Major Gaslighting
      “Wouldn’t listen to me” (thus maiming, beating, and killing)

      Yikes. Sorry to read about your experiences, Songs of Joy.

  4. My daughter and SIL have some pets. SIL treats one pet less than nice quite often. The pet is annoying, but in my opinion doesn’t deserve the treatment he sometimes gets. My daughter never seems to act upset; however, I always wonder if she’s hiding something bigger than just how her husband treats the dog. I’m afraid to ask.

    1. CincyCC, I don’t know how your daughter will react if you ask, but if there is abuse happening she might want you to ask. It’s hard to be the first one to bring up the subject. Maybe instead of “is there abuse?” You could say, “is there anything else that bothers you?”

      Related to the entire discussion Proverbs 12:10 came to mind.

      The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.

  5. Pets, children, family heirlooms. Anything and everything is but a tool for further abuse, destruction, and harm. Kicking the family dog across the room is a great way to further terrorize the family. It’s all one big swirl. And if the person has horses or large animals who are family pets, the person is very unlikely to leave if she knows the horses will be shot and killed upon his discovering she has left. Just to cause her harm, grief, and suffering.

    Abuse is abuse is abuse. It’s all about doing the devil’s will and destroying as many people as possible…via mistreating you, your pets, your children, etc.

    Abusers are like mini, wanna-be gods. The power differentials show the person’s truest character.

    Think about the child who stomps on ants that he sees on the sidewalk while playing outside in the summertime. He is not grieving over the ants he killed, but rather glorying himself on his obliteration of the anthill he found.

    Women’s bodies, spirits, souls, a person’s pets, children, finances, personal information…..anything and everything is fair game. It’s all about being the one on top, subjugating others, creating terrorized zombie slaves out of others, and doing whatever sadistic impulse the abuser has next.

    But animal abuse, like mangling, torturing and killing cats, dogs, etc., especially in childhood, is a marker / red flag for psychopathy. Police start investigating and looking for the person who starts setting cats on fire, etc. Look at the backgrounds of a lot of sadistic psychopathic, violent criminals who are locked up for life. They were blowing up frogs and setting cats on fire as children. Not all, but some. (Or at least, that is what I have read.)

    1. Actually, let me phrase that better….. “abusers are like mini, wanna-be gods. The power differentials show the person’s truest character”

      Abusers are tyrants. They only want to rule, dominate, control, subjugate, and be this all-powerful, tyrannical, dictator. Kind of like North Koreans are forced to basically worship their dictator as though he is GOD, HIMSELF.

      And abuse has distorted my view and perception of Almighty God. I struggle with seeing Him as loving, truly caring, good, and wonderful because my experiences of being abused, terrorized, subjugated, enslaved, violated, debased, traumatized, and ground into nothingness, have me worrying that God is a vicious, bullying, dominating tyrant who is just itching to further harm me for some supposed slip-up or fault or wrongdoing or mistake or inadequacy of mine.

      But God isn’t like that. Abusers are the spawn of Satan. Nothing more opposite than that.

      1. I only recently learned about the ‘god’ mindset of these people. It makes sense. H, would rarely seem to truly join in worship / singing, etc at church. I never understood why. He abuses animals too, he did before we got married but I was too blind to see what this showed about his true character. He would do it in such a way as ‘teasing’ or playing with the animal. It bothered me and I would try to stick up for the animal. Ugh how could I have been so blind. Now I have bought a small crate and supplies to take my cat with me in the event I need to leave quickly. SMH at this whole thing. One of my adult children told me recently that he dropped her cat off the high back porch once when she was a kid, right in front of her. Since I have confronted him and the kids know I have heard some stories from the past that break my heart.

    2. Thank you for bringing this up. There’s this triad that experts use to help identify “troubled” behavior in children.

      From Wikipedia:

      The Macdonald triad (also known as the triad of sociopathy or the homicidal triad)…..The triad links cruelty to animals, obsession with fire setting, and persistent bedwetting past a certain age, to violent behaviors, particularly homicidal behavior and sexually predatory behavior. However, other studies claim to have not found statistically significant links between the triad and violent offenders.

      Psychology has updated their stance on this in the regard that these behaviors DON’T HAVE TO BE PRESENT in order for a child / adult to be a psychopath because each sociopath presents differently. Some get their fix from emotionally manipulating others or in using “pranks” as a form of abuse. (Many of the “funny” video shows on TV actually reveal abusers but we are told it is comedy–and if we don’t see it that way we then we don’t have a good sense of humor!)

      1. RBE, I removed the section of your comment where you told about your grandparents and your mother, because it seemed too identifying and we don’t want this blog or yourself to be exposed to defamation suits.

      2. Totally right. Many dark personalities and / or psychopathic persons don’t have those childhood markers because they were getting their sadistic jollies from other behaviors.

        As for the jokes, the teasing, and the pranks…..I see them in a totally different light now. Like watching America’s Funniest Home Videos where some guys will be pranking some woman at the office with an insect or a giant spider or something similar. I see that as harassment. Why would you want to seriously frighten and scare the heck out of a coworker, especially a woman, who comes into work to do her job and you bullying men have plotted to have some ‘fun’ entirely at her expense? Even if she ‘laughed’ to eventually show that she was a ‘good sport’ (as that’s the expectation / demand, as otherwise she is further wronged in being labeled ‘a poor sport’ or ‘can’t take a joke’ or ‘uppity’ or whatever), I’d bet from that day on she had some anxiety as to what they’re going to do to her next…..if not this week, then maybe next week, or who knows when…. I see it as cruelty.

        Perhaps some people enjoy running around pulling pranks on one another, but usually it’s a group of guys who target a woman in the office.

      3. Yeah. I worked as a barmaid years ago. I drove to work and always parked my car in a multi-storey carpark opposite the venue where I worked. One night at the end of my shift I couldn’t find my car in the carpark. I thought it had been stolen. I had to call someone to get a lift home. It was quite scary, because it was late at night and the carpark was pretty dark and there I was looking round the carpark for my car and unable to find it and of course being aware that dark lonely carparks are places where men can easily rape women.

        I reported the theft to the police. A few days later it turned out that my car was in the carpark, on another floor level. A bunch of young guys at my workplace had carried it by hand and moved it to another floor. And they all smirked and mocked me for my anger when I showed them I was angry.

        Guys treating women as just things they can laughingly mistreat, and they bond together as goons by enjoying hurting the woman.

      4. A few days later

        Whoa! I could see that being mildly funny (although I could certainly understand if you didn’t think so!) if they had been there, watched you look and then told you where it was, but to NOT tell you? I would have been furious!

    3. Hmmm yes that is true. Anything precious to you. Your children, pictures, heirlooms are all up for grabs. My MIW (monster in wedlock) loved to say he was going to kill or hurt any animal my daughter would go to, she loved cats, and they comforted her so he would make her cry by hurting them, then of course it engaged me into standing up for her, which gave him free rein over us.

      1. That’s horrible, Barbara! Taking your car and putting it on an entirely different level of the carpark. I’m proud of you for being angry!! I’d have been so embarrassed, plus living in true fear of actual predators in your life changes things drastically where it gets to the point of anger not being an option as violence ensues if anger, upset, disagreement, etc. is ever expressed (or even thought — mind control, anyone? brainwashing, anyone?). Dangerous, deviant, SADISTIC predators change things real quick, but I’m so glad you were angry. 🙂

        I’ve had so many things done to me that it’s really comforting to know someone else has had similarly hateful things done to them.

        Memphis Rayne — “MIW (monster in wedlock)” I might be just tired, but I giggled over reading that. 🙂 ‘monster in wedlock’

        And absolutely, men bond over their abuse of women. It’s about sexism, male supremacy, male entitlement, and truly not seeing women as actual human beings, but rather targets / objects / things. But seriously, the whole male bonding over degrading, harassing, abusing, victimizing, violating women. Look at all the sexual harassment in the workplaces. Look at how gang raping is not only done in groups of guys as a male bonding activity, but almost always, nowadays, there’s cell phones out, recording it to share in triumph, egging each other on in their footage of this or that defilement, violation, attack and assault. The video is the trophy. So the male bonding doesn’t have to stop when the victim regains consciousness (or is able to fight / flee or someone puts and end to it, etc.) but rather it can be shared and relived and shown again and again for its bragging rights and to ensure further damage to the victim.

        Just like a lot of the creep shots (I don’t know the websites or the terminology but it’s creeps who do such violating stuff) that are posted and shared on the internet….. like trying various methods of filming a woman in public and trying to get [a] video of a shot up her skirt, just to post and have other guys see it and they all bond over this stuff.

        Ugh, I have to stop as it’s so sickening. Revolting.

    1. It’s a tapestry. “Domestic violence” doesn’t just include the overt, physical violence. There’s such [a] thing as covert violence, which is where a lot of psychological and emotional abuse comes in. Harming another as a threat (which might not be explicitly voiced) is a psychological abuse tactic, so even the family members who aren’t being abused directly are still being abused indirectly.

  6. This is hitting way too close to home for me. Husband wrenched pet’s hind leg so it has a permanent tendon tear. I didn’t realize he had done it until same thing happened to second pet. Finally after 100s of dollars at the vet and another animal-pet in the household getting the rap, I pressed him and he confessed. [Eds have redacted that exact words of this confession to protect the commenter’s identity. The abuser said words to the effect that he felt bad, but he didn’t like those pets so that justified him hurting them.]

    I feel horrified. He did this twice and let me believe the lie. […] I’ve seriously been wondering about this link between dv and animal abuse. Most of the time he’s sappy sweet with the pets. Your timing in the post is strikingly coincidental. (Providential?)

    1. Hi dear sister, welcome to the blog! 🙂

      I edited your comment so it would be less likely to identify you. We want to help you keep safe.

      Please check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

      (hugs) to you, and we hope you keep reading and commenting on the blog. Your husband is definitely an abuser, and the fact that he is cruel to animals shows that you yourself are at high risk of being severely injured or even killed by this man. I suggest you read our Safety Planning page and consider ringing a Hotline as well.

      1. Thank you Barbara. I’ve been reading this blog pretty much daily going on two years. I’ve related to so much. I’ve often wanted to jump in and share (but haven’t known how to begin). I keep thinking “He’s a good guy most of the time…good provider, good dad, goes to church, offers heart-felt apologies…” and “Maybe he can change?” He seems to try. (Or jump through hoops?). But then something like this goes wrong again. It’s a jolt. Like a wakeup call. I’m in a difficult place now. Weighty decisions abound. Appreciate your support!

      2. Barbara, as part of a safety plan I checked around for hotels that allow you to bring pets with you. I am wondering though if going to a hotel is a reasonable thing to do? My worry is that the financial cost of it could be too much and I’d have to return home. I don’t know where else I could go. Shelter nearby has a wait list and also they would not allow my pet. If I wind up having to leave U will use this time to have my lawyer file for divorce for me. Do you know how long it takes between filing and having the husband served? And could I request in the filing, that h. leave the house before I come back?

      3. Hi BreatheAgain,

        I’m not Barb (it is nighttime in AU so I suspect she is sleeping), but wanted to make a suggestion.

        Regarding your pet: would you have a trusted friend, family member, or neighbor that could keep the pet during this time for you?

        Regarding the filing and having the papers served: That amount of time required to have the papers served after they have been filed may vary with state and county laws. For my situation my -ex was served within 48 hours. But as I said that may vary between states / counties. That question along with the question about the h leaving the house are questions that could be most accurately answered by a lawyer.

  7. The way my ex treated animals was very disturbing. Most of the time would speak kindly to them, pet them and fuss over them. Then suddenly without warning he might hurt them or leave them to die. The level of callousness he sometimes showed towards animals was striking and very abnormal. Terrifying, especially because this pattern is the same way he treats his human victims.

  8. My son is receiving intensive in-home therapy, as he has been cruel to our pets in the past and towards me. I’ve been in a marriage for many years that has involved intermittent abuse and our therapist is well aware of the link between domestic violence, child abuse and animal cruelty.

    1. Hi GratefulReader, I had to change your screen name to GratefulReader because the name you’d given may have identified you. Please be careful with what goes in the ‘name’ field of the comments form. You may have to manually alter it before you hit the submit button.

      I’m glad you have a therapist who is awake to these issues.

  9. When we got our first pet after our marriage, my husband kept telling everyone that he was okay with me getting a pet–like he was so kind and he did me this favor. Two decades later when God revealed that he was a psychopath, it made sense. He’d tell stories from his childhood about animals in the neighborhood that would turn up dead, and then try to share the gory details–to which I always told him to STOP! It became apparent that HE had been the one to kill and mutilate these innocent animals.

    [Edited by ACFJ here.]

    Abusers will use ANYTHING as a platform to abuse from….whatever they can use to justify their “righteous” anger knowing that the majority of people in their sphere will back them up even when they commit atrocities under whatever guise they’ve decided to use such as caring about animals, nature, the planet, tofu, nuggies, ……………just another jolly holiday for the psychopath!

  10. I’m sure there’s a correlation. If someone’s going to treat humans as puppets that exist for their convenience, you can be sure they’re treating animals the same way.

    One person who knew my abuser(s), when told, paused and thought and commented that the abuser(s) “always had been mean to the cats”.

    Before I left town, I took my cat to the vet. She was confused and worried, but okay…until I took her in the door, when she went to outright terror in a manner that had only ever been triggered by a particular person. I commented that my cat was acting as if that particular person was around, and at checkout they confirmed that person had been there earlier that day, hours before. There were several disconcerted murmurs about that while they eyed my cat’s body language, so I hope they understood, for the sake of that person’s current pets.

  11. Wow! This post was so triggering it took me several days to respond.

    I grew up with an abusive father who abused me sexually and emotionally. The whole family was quite intimidated by him. He used to constantly yell at and belittle my mother, and he controlled the finances.

    This post reminded me of one more thing. My father used to beat and kick the family dog. Our dog was a huge black lab mix. He was a little excitable during the puppy stage, but overall he was such a sweet, docile, gentle animal who wouldn’t hurt anyone. He was such a good friend during my growing up years. R.I.P., sweet puppy. I’m so glad our abuser finally left so that you could spend your elder years in peace.

  12. “He” once yanked on our dog’s leash so hard that it bruised her esophagus. His anger got progressively worse over the years, and I only wish I’d known about NPD 30 years ago to have possibly caught it before it escalated into the contempt he eventually showed.

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