Animals and Public Health: Why Treating Animals Better is by Aysha Akhtar (auth.)

By Aysha Akhtar (auth.)

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98 Maternal caregivers of 1433 six- to twelve-year-old children completed questionnaires on their children’s behaviors and provided information about domestic and sexual abuse. The children were then divided into three groups: a normative sample, a sexually abused sample and a psychiatric comparison group without sexual abuse histories. Violence against animals was significantly associated with violence against humans in all three groups, and the prevalence of animal violence was more than five times as high for the sexual abuse and psychiatric groups as for the normative group.

One of the more interesting precedents involved the use of an animal protection organization to help a child. US diplomat and philanthropist Henry Bergh is credited with starting the humane welfare movement in North America, which began raising awareness about the often perilous plight of both animals and children and took action to protect them. 4 In 1874 the abuse of a 27 28 Animals and Public Health young girl, Mary Ellen Wilson, was brought to the attention of Bergh. After learning of the girl’s physical abuse and neglect, social worker Etta Wheeler asked the New York City Police Department to intervene.

Animal cruelty is not just an act performed by individuals. Animalfighting rings in which animals are trained to fight, often until death, occur worldwide and are conducted by gangs both covertly and overtly. The prosecution of US football player Michael Vick in 2007 brought to public light extremely cruel treatment of pit bull dogs, including horrific details involving abuse, torture and execution of underperforming dogs. 44 Fights ended when one dog died, or when a dog gave up. 46 Vick’s fighting ring was hardly an isolated incident, however, and animal-fighting rings continue in parts of the USA and throughout the world.

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