Mistreatment of animals Vs. humans


The link between cruelty to animals and violence against humans

Many health and social workers who come into contact with human abuse, mistreatment and domestic violence are aware of the link between cruelty to animals and violence against humans. They recognise that cruelty to pets can be both a part and a symptom of child and family abuse. 

Cruelty to animals isn’t always a sign of deep psychological problems that will inevitably lead to extreme violence against other people. Sometimes people treat animals cruelly to vent their aggression. But such behaviour is a critical warning sign, especially if it becomes habitual. According to research, such acts of cruelty can be an indicator of future criminal acts against humans.

Understanding that this link exists and how it works can be key to breaking the terrible cycle of violence.

The cycle of violence

Witnessing abuse…

  • The more violence against animals children witness, the more desensitised they become to it
  • Based on their own experiences, children start to hurt pet animals (reacting to the situation they observe)
  • Children abuse animals as a way of abusing others emotionally

… people abuse pet animals …

  • To play out dark fantasies
  • To practice their killing skills
  • To cope with abuse that they have experienced themselves

… before they abuse humans

  • As a way of threatening or blackmailing other people, especially family members who fear for their pet
  • As a weapon of emotional abuse (family members are made to watch their pet suffering)
  • As a show of power (the abuser wants to control others – usually family members)


By linking Social Service and Animal Welfare organisations together, cruelty incidents can be linked and reported helping to identify both animal cruelty and human violence cases quickly. An inter-agency approach helps to better serve all of those who need both animals and humans alike.