The Link: Animal Cruelty & Domestic Violence

Animal companions are a great addition to the family as they provide unconditional love, companionship and bring structure and stability in our lives. Surprisingly, animals in the household can also be used as crime-predictors! In fact, many studies throughout the years, from 1997-2017 (described below), have suggested a strong link between animal abuse and domestic violence. More particularly, these studies have demonstrated that people who abuse animals are more likely to violently abuse human beings. As such, animal abuse must be taken seriously by law enforcement agencies as soon as possible to preserve the well-being of those animals and the people who are at risk of domestic violence.

It was suggested back in 1997 by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals that those who abuse animals are five-times more likely to also harm human beings.[1] Another study, conducted in 2013 suggested that about 40% of people who commit school massacres have additionally committed acts of animal abuse to dogs and cats.[2] In fact, some of the most notorious serial killers in the U.S., including Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, and David Berkowitz, murdered and mutilated many innocent animals before changing their targets to human beings.[3] Also, “if a child is cruel to animals, research shows it may be a sign that serious abuse or neglect has been inflicted on the child”.[4] Further, these children are at greater risk of becoming abusers themselves in the future.[5] This is a never ending cycle of abuse. There is an urgent need for law enforcement to take animal abuse cases more seriously!

More recently, a study conducted in 2017 demonstrated that approximately 90% of women “who had companion animals during an abusive relationship reported that their animals were threatened, harmed, or killed by their abusive partner”.[6] In fact, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association suggests that animal companions in the home can be used as a tool of manipulation. The abuser may threaten to kill or hurt the pet to “exert power and control over [their human victims]” as a warning that next time it could be them that will be hurt.[7]

Many news reports have shown real life evidence of this occurring. One such example was the heartbreaking story of Desmond the dog, a brown pit bull/boxer mix, who lived with a young couple who had many domestic disputes for over six years. After the boyfriend, Wullaert, left home, Desmond was turned in to a shelter named “The Robin I” in New Haven as an owner-surrender by the girlfriend where he was “immediately loved by all”.[8] Later, Wullaert reclaimed Desmond and brutally murdered him. Instead of receiving jailtime, he was enrolled in an accelerated rehabilitation program. This is a tragic end for this innocent animal that lost his life with no justice served for him. Desmond was a loving sentient being who paid the ultimate price because of Wullaert’s abusive personality. Thankfully, Wullaert left the home before worse abuse could be done towards his girlfriend. Had he remained at home, much worse could have potentially happened. Some positive news is that Desmond’s death inspired a new law in Connecticut to be passed in honor of this dog, named “Desmond’s Law” (you can read more about his story and this law in the March blog post).  

This real-life evidence along with decades of studies suggesting the link between animal cruelty and domestic violence demonstrates that changes are needed.  Thankfully, at the Federal level, Congressmen introduced proposed legislation, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act which would prosecute those responsible for cruelty and the killing of animals. If passed into law, this PACT legislation would “prohibit intentional acts of crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, impaling, or otherwise subjecting animals to serious bodily harm”[9]. More is changes are desperately needed. If you witness or you are aware that an animal is being abused, please call your local authorities as this can be a precursor to serious crimes against family members or yourself. If your jurisdiction does not have strict regulations against animal cruelty, contact your local politicians and lobby for legislative change. Also, by sharing animal abuse stories on social media, you can help spread awareness on these crimes and start putting pressure on our governments to enact stronger animal protection legislation. As we pass new law we get closer to criminally penalizing those responsible for abusing and killing animals. As well, in the process, we are preserving not just the lives of animals but of the people subjected to domestic violence by preventing these crimes before they happen. Please stand up for the innocent animals and those human victims of domestic violence and you can save precious lives and give a voice!

[1] ALDF. “Animal Cruelty and Domestic Violence – The Link Between Cruelty to Animals and Violence Toward Humans.” Animal Legal Defense Fund, 2018,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Watts, Sarah. “Why Do Serial Killers Usually Abuse Animals at an Early Age?” A&E, 3 Jan. 2018,

[4] Supra note 1.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] CVMA | The Link – Animal Abuse, Child Abuse, and Domestic Violence,

[8] McNerney, Pem. “Starved, Beaten, Strangled, Stuffed Under The Ice, Desmond Becomes Rallying Point [Video].” Stone Mountain-Lithonia, GA Patch, Patch, 16 May 2012,

[9] “New Federal Animal Cruelty Law Introduced.” Veterinary Practice News, 12 Feb. 2019,