WHAT HAS THE NATIONAL LINK COALITION ACCOMPLISHED?
By focusing on how animal abuse hurts people as well as animals – a message which resonates with legislators and public officials for whom animal welfare is not a high priority — Link awareness has resulted in an impressive string of accomplishments benefiting vulnerable animals, children, women, and elders. As of July 2023, these include:
- All 50 states and the federal government now consider some form of animal cruelty a felony (compared with 5 states in 1992).
- Sex with animals is now illegal in 49 states.
- 41 states require or allow veterinarians to report suspected animal abuse.
- 38 states allow courts to include pets in domestic violence protection orders.
- 16 states require or allow cross-reporting between child protection, animal protection and adult protective services.
- 22 states require animal sex abusers to register as a sex offender.
- 12 states define animal abuse as an act of domestic violence.
- 10 states allow dogfighting to be prosecuted as a criminal enterprise.
- 6 states allow courts to award custody of pets in a divorce settlement to the party determined to be in the animals’ best interests.
- Animal cruelty and neglect, bestiality, child abuse, child sexual assault, rape, and sexual assault are now prohibited in the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
- The federal Pet And Women Safety (PAWS) Act of 2018 allows states’ pet protection orders to be enforced across state lines and makes $3,000,000 available annually to help domestic violence shelters accept pets.
- The federal Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act of 2019 addressing the perils of online animal pornography, based upon its Links with child pornography and child sexual abuse.
ADVANCEMENTS IN PREVENTION OF AND RESPONSE TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
- Over 300 domestic violence shelters are now pet-friendly, enabling abused family members to remain together and sustain their healing human-animal bonds.
- Dozens of resource materials, Technical Assistance guidelines and surveys describe how fear of threats to animals is a psychological barrier preventing abused women and children from escaping dangerous relationships.
- Foster care programs for pet victims of domestic violence remove one barrier that prevents the human family members from leaving.
- Manuals in 35 states assist domestic violence attorneys and advocates to help survivors obtain protection orders for their pets.
- Pets are included in domestic violence agencies’ Safety Planning.
- Three online portals direct domestic violence survivors to shelters that offer services for their companion animals.
ADVANCEMENTS IN HUMANE LAW ENFORCEMENT
- An International Association of Chiefs of Police resolution supporting animal cruelty investigations to protect public safety.
- The FBI now includes four types of animal cruelty and neglect in the national crime data collection system.
- A National Sheriffs’ Association White Paper describes animal cruelty as a gateway to other crimes.
- The National Counterterrorism Center, Department of Homeland Security and FBI warn advise enforcement agencies to consider animal cruelty as a warning sign for terrorism.
- Report on animal cruelty histories among mass shooters by the U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center
- Publication of a 9-point Link checklist for law enforcement officers to guide police in protecting people and animals.
- Research identifying animal abuse as a factor that doubles the risk of lethality for law enforcement officers responding to domestic violence cases.
- Magazine articles for numerous law enforcement organizations including the National Sheriffs Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Florida Sheriffs Association, and the New Hampshire Governor’s Commission on the Humane Treatment of Animals.
ADVANCEMENTS IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE
- Bench books in Virginia and Florida educate family court judges to consider animal abuse in the context of juvenile offenders, protection-from-abuse-orders, and divorce settlements.
- Link-based Technical Assistance manuals and web resources for the National District Attorneys’ Association, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the American Prosecutors’ Research Institute, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the American Bar Association, and the U.S. Department of Justice.
- Specialized animal cruelty task forces have been formed in 54 law enforcement agencies and prosecutors’ offices in 21 states.
ADVANCEMENTS IN VETERINARY MEDICINE
- Organizational policies and professional codes of conduct by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Animal Hospital Association, and their counterparts in Canada, the U.K. and New Zealand, encourage or require veterinarians to report suspected cases of animal cruelty, abuse and neglect.
- Guidances in Ohio, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Colorado, British Columbia, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand educate veterinarians about The Link and their responsibilities in diagnosing and responding to suspected animal abuse.
- Members of the National Link Coalition designed and teach the Cruelty to Animals and Interpersonal Violence course within the University of Florida Graduate Certificate Program in Veterinary Forensic Medicine; from 2016-2023 this course has taught 486 veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and related professionals.
- Infographics for veterinary clinics describe how to suspect and report animal abuse and establish their facilities as “No-Hit Zones” where neither children, adults nor animals are victims of physical violence.
- More than 130 Veterinary Forensics specialists in 16 countries assist law enforcement and prosecutors in identifying non-accidental injuries to animals.
- More than 161 Veterinary Social Workers are assisting practitioners and clients with compassion fatigue, grief management, animal-assisted interventions, and The Link; an additional 225 students are currently enrolled in VSW programs.
- Growing awareness of veterinarians’ responsibilities to respond to suspected domestic violence.
ADVANCEMENTS IN PREVENTION OF AND RESPONSE TO CHILD ABUSE
- Increased awareness of children’s perpetration or witnessing of animal cruelty as an Adverse Childhood Experience with lifelong negative behavioral and physiological health consequences.
- Cross-reporting templates help state child protective services caseworkers recognize and report animal abuse and neglect, and help animal services officers recognize and report child abuse and neglect.
- Animal-assisted therapeutic interventions in children’s advocacy centers and courtrooms aid survivors of child sexual abuse.
ADVANCEMENTS IN PREVENTION OF AND RESPONSE TO ELDER ABUSE
- The Administration for Community Living incorporated 3 National Link Coalition recommendations into guidelines for states’ program administration, receiving reports of abuse, and conducting investigations.
- Research-to-Practice brief about animal abuse by the National Adult Protective Services Association.
- Protocols and Technical Assistance manuals for Adult Protective Services caseworkers to screen for animal abuse and animal hoarding situations.
ADVANCEMENTS IN PREVENTION OF AND RESPONSE TO ANIMAL HOARDING
- Dissemination of research and programmatic work from the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium and other researchers.
- Monograph offering guidance to judges handling animal hoarding cases.