Marie-José Enders-Slegers: “Cruelty to animals is often a sign of family violence”
Marie-José Enders Slegers has conducted research that shows a very real link between domestic violence and animal abuse. A study with women living at a shelter for abused women showed that in half of the cases, the family pet was also a victim of abuse. Understanding the connection between these two types of violence can mean better prevention, but it is critical to pick up on warning signs early on.
According to Enders-Slegers, it takes a team of professionals to effectively put a stop to domestic violence. To this end, 2011 legislation requires Dutch veterinarians to report any cruelty toward animals that they become aware of. From there, social workers, the police, and the justice department can get involved and work in a coordinated manner. In the Netherlands, there are inspectors who deal with animal-associated issues, a sort of animal-oriented police force. If they detect violence toward animals that appears to suggest human violence, they are in a position to call on social services or the traditional police force for rapid protective action.
Animal abuse is a serious matter in and of itself, but its role as an indicator of dangerous situations for people is a lesser known and clearly critical issue.