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Sharon To
Lynda Haas
Writing 39C
10 August 2015
A Day in the Life of Man’s Best Friend: Addressing the Problem of Canine Abuse
Presently in the United States, there are a total of 19,448 cases of animal abuse, 11,894
of which list dogs as the victims according to, an online database that
documents incidents of animal cruelty and offers support services and tools for animal
advocates and animals in need. Animal cruelty is broken down into two categories: active and
passive. Passive acts are typically cases of neglect in the form of starvation, dehydration,
inadequate sheltering in extreme weather conditions, and so on. Active cruelty, otherwise
known as non-accidental injury, is deliberate and intentional harm to an animal and often
involves beating, burning, fighting, and the like ( Though there is growing
acknowledgement for the need to protect canine companion animals, acts of abuse against
dogs continue, albeit in different forms. Figure 1 illustrates the various types of animal abuse
that occur and the percentage of
animal abuse cases that involve
each type. To better understand the
state of companion animal abuse,
Helen Munro, veterinary
pathologist, and Michael Thrusfield,
chair of veterinary epidemiology at
the Royal School of Veterinary

Fig.  1.  Types  of  animal  abuse.  Pet-­‐

Studies, studied records of 243 non-accidental injury cases in companion dogs. Their research
documented superficial and deep injuries found on victims’ bodies (bruising, swelling,
lacerations, fractures, etc. on head/neck, eyes, thorax, abdomen, and limbs), cases of repetitive

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injury and outcome, and age, gender, and breed distribution of canine victims, noting the young
male dog as the most common victim.
The ramifications of these acts of abuse take a toll on not just the animal’s physical well
being but its psychological state as well. A study published in the Journal of Applied Animal
Welfare Science conducted by scientists Franklin McMillan (American College of Veterinary
Internal Medicine), Deborah Duffy (Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society), Stephen
Zawistowski (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), and James
Serpell (School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania) in 2014 analyzes the
behavior of dogs with a “certain or near certain history of being abused” in an attempt to
determine characteristics that could be potential risk factors for abuse (92). Comparisons of
behavioral responses of abused and non-abused dogs show that abused dogs exhibit “more
aggression and fear directed toward unfamiliar humans and dogs...more hyperactivity, and more
persistent barking” on top of more fearful responses to petting or reprimand (102). Other similar
studies also found that animals suspected to be victims of abuse by veterinarians showed signs
of depression, psychological damage, meekness, and excessive fear of strangers (Munro &
Thrusfield, 2001; McGuiness, Allen, Jones, 2005). The tendencies that abused dogs exhibit
indicate that they learn to think of humans as threats and, therefore, sources of fear,
corresponding with Thorndike’s experiment which found that dogs are capable of associative
learning; in this case, they are associating humans with danger. These findings are made more
intriguing when we consider the strength of the human-canine relationship dogs are able to form
with their caretakers that was demonstrated by the kennel experiment conducted by Tuber et al.

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One of the most pressing issues at hand in terms of companion animal abuse lies in the
lack of concern for animal abuse as a subject of research. Frank Ascione, professor of
psychology at Utah State University, calls attention to the practically nonexistent criteria for
determining the occurrence of abuse and neglect in animals, which also manifests itself in the
absence of a clear definition of animal abuse and animal cruelty. This shortcoming makes it
difficult to assess the true extent of animal abuse in
the greater community with an estimated 1 million
animals falling victim to it every year. An idea that is
relevant to the discussion of canine abuse is
speciesism, a term coined by psychologist and
philosopher Richard Ryder to “describe the prejudice
against other species” (“What is speciesism?” 0:10).
Companion animals like dogs are most often the
victims of human aggression as they are frequently
viewed as property. Much of the abuse occurs due to
failure on the human’s part to acknowledge dogs as
sentient beings who are “capable of feeling emotions
and pain similar to humans” (Phillips & Lockwood 2).
Figure 2 is an infographic intended to depict the
various forms of abuse canine victims typically
suffer. With the growing interest in animal abuse
research since the late 1990s, researchers have
been able to develop their knowledge on the
existence and prevalence of animal abuse, and

Fig.  2.  Forms  of  canine  abuse.  Sharon  To.

even draw a “connection between abuse of humans
and animals” (Tiplady 14). Senior research scholar at the Yale University School of Forestry and

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Environmental Studies Stephen Kellert and director of forensic psychiatry at Saint Louis
University School of Medicine Alan Felthous interviewed over 150 criminals, 25% of which
committed “five or more acts of animal cruelty” (Tiplady 19). Kellert and Felthous found nine
animal cruelty motivations that include a desire to control an animal, express aggression
through an animal, enhance one’s own aggressiveness, retaliate against another person, and
displace hostility from a person to an animal. These findings support other studies that have
found strong ties between companion animal abuse and domestic violence, as animal abuse
has been indicated to be a manipulation mechanism to establish and maintain control over
victims (Animal Legal Defense Fund).
According to the American Humane Association, 71% of pet-owning women subjected to
domestic violence reported that their batterer “injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets
for revenge or to psychologically control victims; 32% reported their children had hurt or killed
animals.” The Animal Legal Defense Fund claims that abusers of animals are “five times as
likely to harm humans.” An article in the Journal of Community Health titled “Risk factors for
intimate partner violence and associated injury among urban women” cites pet abuse as one of
the four predictors of domestic partner violence. Animal abuse and comparative criminology
professor Piers Beirne presents numerous studies that reveal a link between animal abuse and
a variety of forms of domestic violence like partner abuse (Ascione, 1998), child physical abuse
(Deviney et al., 1983), child sexual abuse (Boat, 1995), and sibling abuse (Wiehe, 1990) (124).
Professor psychology at John Jay College Cathy Widom found that a history of child abuse and
neglect increased chances of delinquency, crime, and violence in adulthood. Varying factors
such as corporal punishment, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and domestic violence have been
attributed to the higher likelihood of animal abuse in children and adolescents. In households in
which domestic violence occurs, children are more likely to be exposed to the abuse of animals,
whether an adult commits the act or the children themselves as an expression of the pain they
feel from their own victimization.

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The problem with canine abuse is clear: it is damaging in a multitude of ways to both
dogs and humans. Daily interactions between humans and their household pets immensely
affect the well-being of said animal, and whether by neglect or intended action, abuse can have
long-term consequences on a dog’s physical lifestyle as well as its psychological and behavioral
characteristics. Canine victims of domestic abuse are often silent victims, not because they
don’t speak up, but because they do in ways we can’t understand. As proven through studies
like those conducted by Tuber et al., dogs are capable of feeling emotions and pain, but their
forms of communication, like their use of body language, is often misunderstood by humans.
These acts of cruelty don’t just hurt the dogs either; there are countless studies that make the
relationship between canine abuse and interhuman violence undeniable. Without intervention,
this cruel cycle of violence will continue unhindered.

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Works Cited
"Animal Cruelty." Pet-Abuse.Com. Pet-Abuse.Com, n.d. Web. 4 Aug. 2015.
"Animal Cruelty and Domestic Violence." Animal Legal Defense Fund Animal Cruelty and
Domestic Violence Comments. Animal Legal Defense Fund, n.d. Web. 4 Aug. 2015.
Ascione, Frank R. "Animal Abuse and Youth Violence." Juvenile Justice Bulletin (2001): n.
pag.National Criminal Justice Reference Service. Web. 10 Aug. 2015.
Beirne, Piers. "For A Nonspeciesist Criminology: Animal Abuse as an Object of Study."
Criminology37.1 (1999): 117-48. Wiley Online Library. Web. 5 Aug. 2015.
"Dog Abuse Facts | Cruelty Stats and Information | The Dog Fact Center." Facts-About-Dogs.
N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Aug. 2015.
"Facts About Animal Abuse & Domestic Violence." Facts About Animal Abuse & Domestic
Violence. American Humane Association, n.d. Web. 4 Aug. 2015.
McGuinness, K., Allen, M., & Jones, B. R. (2005). Non-accidental injury in companion animals in
the Republic of Ireland. Irish Veterinary Journal, 58, 392–396. Web. 7 Aug. 2015.
McMillan, Franklin D., Deborah L. Duffy, Stephen L. Zawistowski, and James A. Serpell.
"Behavioral and Psychological Characteristics of Canine Victims of Abuse." Journal of
Applied Animal Welfare Science 18.1 (2014): 92-111. Research Gate. Web. 4 Aug.
Munro, Helen M., and Michael V. Thrusfield. "Battered Pets: Non-Accidental Physical Injuries
Found in Dogs and Cats." Journal of Small Animal Practice 42 (2001): 279-90. Wiley
Online Library. Web. 4 Aug. 2015.
Tiplady, Catherine. Animal Abuse: Helping Animals and People. Wallingford, Oxfordshire: CABI,
2013. Print.
Walton-Moss, B. J., Manganello, J., Frye, V., & Campbell, J. C. (2005). "Risk factors for intimate
partner violence and associated injury among urban women." Journal of Community
Health, 30(5), 377–389. Web. 4 Aug. 2015.

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Widom, C.S. 1989. The cycle of violence. Science 244:160–166. Web. 10 Aug. 2015.