The relationship between

animal abuse and interpersonal violence

“When animals are abused, people are at risk. When people are abused, animals are at risk.”

- Phil Arkow

For thousands of years, humans have enjoyed a close bond with animals. Historically, animals have helped humans meet their needs for food, clothing, entertainment, and transportation. Animals are also a source of unconditional love. Interactions with animals can help decrease our loneliness and anxiety, promote social interaction, and encourage us to get much-needed exercise.

While animals contribute significantly to our quality of life, the sad reality is that animals may also be the victims of abuse or neglect at the hands of human beings. There is a growing awareness that cruelty to animals and violence to people are closely related. Studies have found that cruelty to animals is often both an indicator and a predictor of interpersonal, family and community violence.



The connection between interpersonal violence and animal abuse — commonly referred to as “the Link” – may be seen in a variety of ways:

  • when animals are being abused in the home, there is the possibility that children and adults in that home may also be at risk;

  • when a child abuses animals, this may be an indicator that the child is also a victim of abuse; and

  • the abuse of animals by a child may be a warning sign of possible violent behaviour later as an adult.


The Saskatchewan perspective  


In order to learn more about the impact of violence on both animals and people, the Saskatchewan SPCA undertook a research study in partnership with STOPS to Violence and the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan (PATHS). The Link:  Interpersonal Violence and Abuse and Animal Safekeeping was undertaken as a way to answer to questions:

  1. Is the concern for the safety of companion animals and livestock a barrier to individuals leaving situations of interpersonal violence and abuse in Saskatchewan?

  2. Are there existing networks and supports in Saskatchewan that provide safekeeping of animals for individuals leaving situations of interpersonal violence and abuse?

Participants in the study included both human service agencies and animal welfare organizations in Saskatchewan.

  • 92% of human service workers taking part in the study agreed that the care and safekeeping of animals can impact planning and decision making for individuals leaving abusive relationships.

  • 77.55% of respondents from the human services sector indicated awareness of someone who did not leave an abusive relationship due to concern for the care and safekeeping of animals.

  • 65% of human service agencies had received requests to help with the temporary safekeeping of animals.

Survey participants noted the many challenges faced by women who own pets or livestock when leaving situations of interpersonal violence. The study revealed that animals can be used to threaten, intimidate, and silence the victims of abuse in situations involving family violence.


Recommendations included in the report:


Based on the information gathered, a list of recommendations was created:

  • Develop education and training workshops regarding the connection between interpersonal violence and abuse and concern for animal safekeeping to human service organizations, animal welfare agencies, and the general public.

  • Establish partnerships between animal welfare agencies and human service organizations to better provide services.

  • Provide information about services available for both animal welfare and human service providers in urban and rural areas.

  • Train service providers in supporting individuals to plan for animal safekeeping when leaving situations of violence and abuse.

  • Among domestic violence services, ensure that the intake process involves asking whether or not animal abuse is occurring/has occurred within the home.

The Report

Download The Link: Interpersonal Violence and Abuse and Animal Safekeeping by clicking on the links below.



Toll-free in SK: 1-877-382-7722


Mailing: Box 37, Saskatoon, SK  S7K 3K1

Office: 511 45th Street West, Saskatoon, SK  S7L 5Z9

©2020 Saskatchewan Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Charitable Registration #: 119140440RR0001