The Link Between Human & Animal Violence

In the mid 1980s the FBI began noticing and paying attention to the fact that serial killers often had histories of abusing animals in early childhood. Since then more and more research has been conducted about the link between human and animal violence. This type of violence often occurs in family violence situations, where animals become victims of perpetrators like their human beings do. More and more states now have felony level animal cruelty statutes to acknowledge the true danger often associated with this form of violence. Many states are also adopting cross reporting laws where human and animal welfare professionals must report suspected violence across species.

If you are experiencing animal abuse in your home please follow this link to see resources that can help you.

If you are a social worker and want more information about attending to the link between human and animal violence, please review the annotated bibliography below for possible resources.

Poor underfed dog


Annotated Bibliography and Resources

  • Ascione, Frank R., & Arkow, Phil (Eds.). (2000). Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, and Animal Abuse: Linking the Circles of Compassion for Prevention and Intervention. Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press. Paper, ISBN 1-55753-143-9. To check price and place order, call 1-800-247-6553.
  • Lockwood, Randall, & Ascione, Frank R. (Eds.). (1999). Cruelty to Animals and Interpersonal Violence: Readings in Research and Application. Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press. Paper, ISBN 1-55753-106-4. To check price and place order, call 1-800-247-6553.
  • Ascione, Frank R. 1999. Safe Havens for Pets: Guidelines for Programs Sheltering Pets for Women Who Are Battered. Published by the author at Utah State University with support of The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. Free copies are available to non-profit agencies by sending Dr. Ascione a self-adhesive, self-addressed mailing label. Individuals may obtain copies by sending a self-adhesive, self-addressed mailing label and a check for $25, made payable to the Utah State University (USU) Department of Psychology. Send requests to: Frank R. Ascione, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology, Utah State University, 2810 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322-2810.
  • Introducing the Web of Violence
    • Agnew, R. (1998). The causes of animal abuse: A social-psychological analysis. Theoretical Criminology, 2(2), 177-209.
      This article reviews the psychological and societal methods by which animal abuse occurs and is condoned in American society.
    • Arkow, P. (1999). The evolution of animal welfare as a human concern. In F. R. Ascione & P. Arkow (Eds.), Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, and Animal Abuse (pp. 62-79). West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press.This
      article traces the historical link between human and animal welfare, describes the forms of human psychopathology associated with human cruelty to animals, points out the symbiotic relationship between agencies that address family violence, and describes the resistance to cross-reporting among these agencies.
    • Arluke, A., & Lockwood, R. (1997). Guest editors introduction: Understanding cruelty to animals. Society and Animals, 5(3), 183-193.
      This introductory article describes what is known about the link and delineates the questions that still need to be answered. The authors invite researchers and practitioners to view animal cruelty not simply as pathology but as a phenomenon that can reveal the deeper values of our culture.
    • Loar, L. (1997). I’ll only help you if you have two legs. In F. R. Ascione & P. Arkow (Eds.), Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, and Animal Abuse (pp. 120-135). West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press.
      This article explains how and why the dependency behaviors commonly exhibited by animals, children, and elders are frequently met with abusive responses from caretakers. Specific examples are offered to illustrate how communities have used humane education and cross-reporting to combat neglect and abuse of both humans and animals.
    • Flynn, C.P. (2000a). Why family professionals can no longer ignore violence toward animals. Family Relations, 49(1), 87-95.
      Through reviewing the empirical evidence regarding the link between animal abuse and interpersonal violence, this article argues that family professionals must pay attention to animal abuse in order to foster the well-being of their human clients.
    • Adams, C.J. (1995). Woman battering and harm to animals. In Animals and Women: Feminist Theoretical Explorations. (pp. 55-84). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
      This chapter provides a conceptual framework to explain why batterers abuse animals as a way to control and coerce their female partners.
  • Children, Animals, and Animal Abuse
    • Ascione, F. (2001). Animal abuse and youth violence. Juvenile Justice Bulletin. Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention. Available online
      This report reviews what is currently known about the prevalence and incidence of animal abuse among youth. Detailed analysis of empirical knowledge is followed by theoretical typologies to differentiate types of childhood animal abusers.
    • Ascione, F. (1997). Children who are cruel to animals: A review of research and implications for developmental psychopathology. Anthrozoos, 6, 226-247.
      This article addresses animal cruelty in childhood focusing on, animal cruelty definitions, animal cruelty in childhood and later aggression towards people, animal cruelty and Conduct Disorder, animal cruelty and family violence, the relationship between cruelty and empathy, and finally research needs in the study of animal cruelty.
    • Melson, G. (2001). Why the Wild Things Are: Animals in the Lives of Children. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
      This book is an enjoyable overview of the relationship between children and animals. It looks at societal, mythological, psychological, and empirical information to flesh out both the positive and negative aspects of children’s’ relationships with their animals.
  • Battered Women and Their Companion Animals: Empirical Research
    • Ascione, F.R. (1998). Battered women’s reports of their partners and their children’s cruelty to animals. Journal of Emotional Abuse, 1(1), 199-133.T
      This study documents battered women’s reports of animal abuse perpetrated by their male partners and examines the impact of concern for pets on battered women’s decision to leave abusive households.
    • Ascione, F.R., Weber, C.V., & Wood, D.S. (1997). The abuse of animals and domestic violence: A national survey of shelters for women who are battered. Society and Animals, 5(3), 205-218.
      Based on a survey of one domestic violence shelter in each of 49 states, this study found that 84% of the shelters reported that women discuss incidences of animal abuse when they enter the shelter. Yet, relatively few domestic violence shelters include questions about pets on intake assessments or provide formalized means of arranging for the care of pets in treatment planning.
    • Flynn, C.P. (2000). Woman’s best friend: Pet abuse and the role of companion animals in the lives of battered women. Violence Against Women, 6(2), 162-177.
      This study examined the extent of pet abuse in the households of women entering a battered women’s shelter in South Carolina, and gave particular attention to what happened to the pets when the women entered the shelter. The study also asked whether women delayed seeking shelter because of their pets, and if so, how long.
    • Flynn, C.P. (2000). Battered women and their animal companions: Symbolic interaction between human and nonhuman animals. Society and Animals, 8(2), 99-127.
      Using a subsample of the women in the previous study, Flynn examined the particular ways battered women interacted with their pets while in the abusive household and also explored how the women felt about their companion animals after separating from them to enter the shelter.
    • Quinlisk, J.A. (1999). Animal abuse and family violence. In F. R. Ascione & P. Arkow (Eds.), Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, and Animal Abuse (pp. 169-175). West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press.
      The author reports the findings from research conducted by a community coalition on domestic violence which incorporated questions about pets and pet abuse into intake assessments for battered women and into group treatment sessions for batterers.
  • Untangling the Web of Abuse Through Service Delivery and Community Action
    • Ascione, F.R. (2000). Safe havens for pets: Guidelines for programs sheltering pets for women who are battered. Published by the author at Utah State University with support from the Geraldine Dodge Foundation.
      This book reviews findings from a study of domestic violence shelters and animal shelters that have established formal or informal programs to care for the pets of battered women seeking shelter. The book also includes copies of many of the documents and forms used in these programs, including the documents used to establish agreements between domestic violence shelters and animal shelters.
    • Solot, D. (1997). Untangling the animal abuse web. Society and Animals, 5(3), 257-265.
      This article discusses the need to remove the barriers between human and animal service agencies in order to combat the “web of violence” effectively. Also addressed are the reasons for resistance to removing these barriers.
    • Lembke, L. (1997). Animal abuse and family violence in a rural environment. In F. R. Ascione & P. Arkow (Eds.), Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, and Animal Abuse (pp. 228-240). West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press.
      This article addresses the link between woman battering and the abuse of both companion animals and farm animals in rural areas. The particular needs and dilemmas of the battered women are explored, along with implications for law enforcement officials and veterinarians in rural environments.
    • Jorgenson, S., & Maloney, L. (1999). Animal abuse and the victims of domestic violence. In F. R. Ascione & P. Arkow (Eds.), Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, and Animal Abuse (pp. 143-158). West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press.
      This article describes the establishment of cross reporting and coordinated responses by human and animal service workers in Colorado Springs, CO. The team that responds to incidences of domestic violence includes humane society workers who address the needs of abused animals in the homes of battered women.
    • Lacroix, C.A. (1999). Another weapon for combating family violence. In F. R. Ascione & P. Arkow (Eds.), Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, and Animal Abuse (pp. 62-79). West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press.
      This article explains how animal abuse is addressed in the legal system. Specifically, the author shows how the legislative process combats family violence through prosecution of animal abuse, and outlines improvements needed to address animal cruelty more effectively in the context of family violence.
  • The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). First Strike Campaign Video. 8 minutes, 30 seconds. Item no. AV60. Price: $6.00. Available from First Strike Campaign, The Humane Society of the United States, 2100 L St., NW, Washington, DC 20037.
    This video was produced by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and provides an introduction to the connection between animal abuse and interpersonal violence, including testimony by a battered woman. The video also explores the use of community coalitions to combat violence.
  • PSYETA. Beyond Violence: The Human Animal Connection. 13 minutes. $19.95 individuals; $29.95 organizations. Includes discussion guide. Spanish version of video and guide available. Available from PSYETA (Psychologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), P.O. Box 1297, Washington Grove, MD 20880-1297. Phone/Fax: 301-963-4751, e-mail:, web:
    This video was produced by Psychologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PSYETA) and summarizes research on the connections between violence against humans and animals.
  • The Latham Foundation. Breaking the Cycles of Violence. (26 minutes) Video and guide available for $29.75 plus shipping. Available from The Latham Foundation, Latham Plaza Blvd., 1826 Clement Avenue, Alameda, CA 95401. Phone: 510-521-0920. FAX: 510-521-9861. For general questions, e-mail: For order related questions, e-mail:
    This video was produced by the Latham Foundation and highlights communities that have introduced cross-training, cross-reporting, and the use of community coalitions of human and animal welfare agencies to identify and effectively intervene in all forms of family violence. See Resource List for ordering information.