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Animals and Abuse Linked
Pet abuse sign of more trouble
By MELISSA TANJI
Maui Humane Society Director of Animal Control Aimee Anderson comforts a dog who had its muzzle wired shut by its owner. Abusive owners use garbage bag plastic/wire ties, bailing wire and rubber bands to shut a dog�s muzzle, she said in explaining that individuals who injure their animals often are abusive to people in their households too. The Maui Coalition to End Abuse and the Maui Humane Society are presenting a conference on animal/domestic abuse next month. Instructors from the Humane Society of the United States are slated to attend.
An abused dog displays visible scars on its muzzle after its owner had wired it shut.
KAHULUI -- When animal control officers investigate reports of abuse of a pet, they sometimes observe signs of abuse of children or others in the household, a Maui Humane Society officer said.
"We have reported situations where children have been injured or neglected," said Aimee Anderson, director of animal control for the Humane Society.
Weighing even heavier on her mind is the knowledge that cases of cruelty to animals are underreported, although the Maui agency last year investigated 1,111 reports of cruelty to animals.
The problem, she said, is that when a pet is being abused, there may not be any witnesses, except possibly the children or other person in the household who are themselves victims of abuse.
The connection between animal abuse and domestic violence is clear, she said. In both kinds of abuse, the perpetrator uses violence to dominate the animal or the person by instilling deep fear.
"This is absolutely so interwoven. It's exerting control over something that's helpless," she said.
The connection is bringing together a coalition of agencies to create awareness in the community, to address the issues and to develop recommendations for preventing the violence in homes from recurring.
The Maui Coalition to End Abuse and the Maui Humane Society are presenting a first-in-the-state conference on animal/domestic abuse in October with instructors from the Humane Society of the United States� "First Strike Campaign." The campaign focuses on the connection between animal cruelty and societal violence.
Speakers will include 2nd Circuit Family Court Judge Richard Bissen Jr.; Ginger Beckett, campaign manager for First Strike campaign; and Eric Sakach, director of the West Coast Regional Office of the Humane Society of the United States.
"We are encouraging all parties to attend. Not just people in the judiciary, social services. This is a societal issue," Anderson said.
Presentations at the conference will provide information on indicators of animal cruelty that may be occurring in a home, and clues that may indicate when domestic abuse is occurring.
The conference will also assist professionals and the public in establishing a local network with a neighborhood of citizens working with the judiciary, animal protection workers and social service professionals. The conference will include training, information on intervention strategies and options for community education.
Fran Joswick, a social service worker with the Maui Coalition to End Abuse, said there are a lot of social workers involved in outreach to victims of domestic violence who don't recognize the connections to animal abuse.
As an example, she said, an emaciated puppy tied up without food or water could be an indication of what is going on in that family.
Studies in psychology, sociology and criminology show that violent offenders frequently have childhood and adolescent histories of serious and repeated animal cruelty, according to The Humane Society of the United States. The FBI has used this correlation for years in profiling serial killers.
Anderson cited the infamous "BTK" murder cases in Kansas as involving an individual who had a well-documented history of animal cruelty. A psychotic murderer, Dennis Rader, 60, had been a butcher and an animal compliance officer in his town, but a neighbor spoke of an incident in which Rader first used Mace on and then shot a dog.
But incidents of animal cruelty also reflect a dysfunctional household, Anderson said. Children who commit animal cruelty are usually in a home that has had reported incidents of family violence and has been visited by police, she said.
She said there needs to be intervention in homes where violence against animals occurs to get the children on track so they do not turn out to be violent adults.
But Joswick and Anderson said it's hard to say how many cases of domestic abuse or animal abuse occur because both are very underreported.
"How many of those cases are not being reported?" Anderson said.
She said the Maui Humane Society has been working with Maui police in providing instructions to police recruits to look at the condition of animals in a house when they are responding to complaints of family abuse or domestic violence. Animal control officers in turn are trained to check on people in a house where animal abuse takes place.
The Maui First Strike Conference will be held from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Oct. 7 in the Maui Beach Hotel's Elleair Ballroom. The $25 fee includes a continental breakfast, lunch and printed materials.
Registration and payments are due Sept. 27.
For information on the conference, contact Anderson at 877-3680 ext. 33 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; or contact Joswick at 242-7600 ext. 223 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
A registration form was printed on page A9 of The Maui News on Sunday.
The conference is also sponsored by the Maui Children's Justice Committee, Makana O Maui Fund, The Mayor Arakawa Community Kokua Fund, Barbara Long and P. Denise La Costa of La Costa Realty Hawaii.