Letter to the editor: What is missing in Child Abuse Prevention Month?

So often when you start talking about kindness to animals someone comments that starving and mistreated children should come first. The issue can’t be divided like that. It isn’t a choice between children and animals. It’s our duty to care for both. Kindness is the important thing. Kids and animals are our responsibility.  -Minnie Pearl

Most mammals and many other species experience the same emotions we humans do:  fear, pain, depression, sadness, happiness, loneliness. Animals are our children also.  Unfortunately, they are the first abused, often before children, because they are the weakest and most helpless. 

The emphasis in the media is on child abuse and domestic violence with little mention of the role pets play in families. Hundreds of publications have given us information similar to that quoted below from A Common Bond: Maltreated Children and Animals in the home. Guidelines for Practice and Policy by Mary Lou Randour of the Humane Society of the United States.

In the Foreward: “A Common Bond makes the point that, to keep families safe and protect children, we need to consider the role that pets play in families. Animal abuse in families often is one of the first indicators that a family needs help. Paying attention to animal abuse provides another important tool with which to guard children from abuse and neglect, provide needed support to families, and protect animals.”

“For example, a study found that animal abuse occurred in 88 percent of families that were under state supervision for the physical abuse of their children (DeViney, Dickert, & Lockwood, 1983).”

“REMEMBER: Child protection personnel are not expected to be authorities on the intricacies of cruelty-to-animals laws or enforcement procedures. They should, however, be routinely encouraged to: (a) assess whether an appropriate animal protection agency or police agency in their community should be notified of relevant cases, (b) engage in a dialogue and open lines of communication with other relevant agencies to deal with cases that involve both children and animals, and (c) initiate and maintain cross-training programs for staff. By doing so, child protection personnel will gain valuable resources for meeting their objectives of strengthening families and ensuring their safety.”

Ramifications of ignoring animal abuse in domestic violence situations are huge, from the mental and emotional suffering a spouse and children are subjected to when animals are hurt plus the possibility of children eventually abusing animals. 

Juveniles who are cruel to animals are more likely to become aggressive toward humans as they develop than are their non-abusive peers. Margaret Mead said: “One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it.”

On a personal note, my father was emotional abusive to our family. He was physically and emotionally cruel to the farm animals and sometimes hit my brother and I harder than needed to get across his point. I learned to run fast from the belt or the pitchfork.  My brother and I were fortunate not to continue the cycle of abuse.

Aileen Peek

Volunteer Executive Director

San Luis Valley Animal Welfare Society,

which manages Biggles Battle Mountain Animal Shelter and Sanctuary


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