The Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) believes that protection, well-being, and health of animals and people are intrinsically intertwined. In order to be able to champion both the needs of animals and people, the ARL believes it is necessary to recognize, understand, and address the complex dynamics of “The Link.” “The Link” refers to co-existence of, as well as the predictor of, connected crimes involving animal abuse and neglect with intra-familial violent crimes, such as child abuse, domestic violence, and elder abuse.
Peer-reviewed studies of the many consequences of the “The Link”, particularly within the last twenty years, have verified that the commission of animal abuse or neglect increases the risk of other violent crimes against members of a family. Among the varied findings, studies have shown that animal abuse is more prevalent in homes that also experience child abuse and domestic violence; threats to and abuse of pets is used to coerce victims to remain in an abusive household or relationship; victims of abuse may remain in an abusive household or relationship because there is no safe place which is able to take in both the human and animal victims; victims may be reluctant to disclose their own abuse for fear of retaliation against their pets; and children who witness violence are at an increased risk of displaying violence towards animals. At the same time, it must also be recognized that pets also provide protection, comfort, and support to victims of abuse and violence, giving victims the ability to cope with their situations and providing impetus and a reason to change their lives. Every effort should be made to keep the human-animal relationship intact.
The ARL has been directly involved in investigations of co-existent abuse crimes, including the beating and stabbing of pets to intimidate and coerce human victims, and is fully aware of the challenges presented by such investigations. The ARL has long recognized that, unless protective measures are put in place, the harm to the animals may be attempted or may continue after the human relationship has ended.
As a result of the myriad of issues that can arise from co-existing abusive crimes, the Animal Rescue League of Boston will:
- Encourage, and participate in, education regarding The Link to law enforcement agencies, child protective services, adult protective services, judicial personnel, prosecutors, veterinarians and any other agency or department who might encounter an abusive situation or be involved in the disposition of such a matter;
- Develop and recommend protocols for first responders to determine if pets are at risk and to ensure that no pet is left behind in a potentially abusive situation;
- Develop and recommend protocols for shelters regarding information to be obtained upon intake and safeguards to be implemented into re-adoption of animals surrendered as a result of an abusive relationship;
- Encourage development and funding of programs which allow victims to stay with their pets in safe housing;
- Encourage and promote a multi-disciplinary effort, urging members of the medical, veterinary fields, mental health, and criminal justice fields, to collaborate, cooperate, and share information about suspected abusive situations;
- Encourage the use of permitted judicial protections such as including pets in protective orders currently set forth at M.G.L. 209A §11;
- Encourage and promote legislation to include animal abuse as a predicate for pre-trial detention under M.G.L. c. 276 §58A;
- Encourage and promote legislation to include animal abuse as a domestic violence offense for purposes of classification; and
- Encourage and promote legislation under M.G.L. c. 6 § 178C to include animal sexual abuse as a predicate for sex offender registration.
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