The Animals and Society Institute pointed me today toward a story in the Toledo Blade where several defendants recently charged in Municipal Court with animal abuse had prior domestic violence convictions. A pattern, experts say, that is not unusual.

Jason Burrell of Toledo, convicted of a domestic violence charge in 2000, was sentenced for crushing a puppy to death and leaving the body in his yard.

Marbles

Millbury resident, Aaron Nova, is facing a charge of abusively handling a dog named Marbles at the Lucas County Dog Warden’s Office, where he is a kennel worker. Nova was convicted this year of punching the mother of his child and trying to drag her from a car.

Domestic violence and animal abuse are connected because of what sociologists call generalized deviance. They are correlated, but it can vary which occurs first. Anti-social behaviors of different types can occur in the same individual.

Bee Friedlander, managing director at the Animals and Society Institute said, “It is important that all professionals who investigate violence in the home be trained on the cycle of violence, so that they are aware of the connection and better able to respond.” Some states, including Ohio, have gone a step further, with cross-reporting laws. In Ohio, animal control officers/agents are mandated to report child abuse (along with teachers, doctors, lawyers, and child-care workers.

Society doesn’t consider animal cruelty as severe as violence against humans. But animal abuse can be a tip-off to other violence or an abuse. If someone abuses animals early in life, it’s a sign that similar aggression may occur later to a spouse or a child. A bill that has been passed by the Ohio House would require a child under 18 years of age who commits cruelty to a companion animal to undergo psychological evaluation to determine if the child needs individual or family counseling.

Director of the Battered Women’s Shelter in the YWCA in downtown Toledo, said that threats against pets are often part of a partner’s tactics to keep the targeted partner under control and prevent plans for leaving. Problems of this type caused the YWCA to start a pet shelter program in partnership with the humane society, the dog warden, and local clinics, kennels, stables, and veterinarians. They have sheltered dogs, cats, bunny rabbits, gerbils, birds, and a ferret. The program is being expanded to provide help to areas outside the city.

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