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Published: Monday, 8/27/2012

Domestic violence, animal cruelty often linked

2 defendants in Toledo Municipal Court reflect correlation of anti-social behaviors

BY TANYA IRWIN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
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Several defendants recently charged in Toledo Municipal Court with animal abuse had prior domestic violence convictions, which experts say is not unusual.

Jason Burrell, 1018 Colburn St., Toledo, convicted of a domestic violence charge in 2000, is to be sentenced today in Toledo Municipal Court for crushing a puppy to death and leaving the body in his yard.

Aaron Nova, 2635 Moline Martin Rd., Millbury, who is facing a charge of abusively handling a dog named Marbles at the Lucas County Dog Warden's Office, where he is a kennel worker, was convicted this year of punching the mother of his child and trying to drag her from a car.

Domestic violence and animal abuse are connected because of what sociologists call "generalized deviance," said Kenneth Shapiro, executive director of the Ann Arbor-based Animals and Society Institute.

"Anti-social behaviors of different stripes occur in the same individual," Mr. Shapiro said. "How individuals come to subscribe to deviance is, of course, a much more complicated question, with many pathways leading to it."

One example is exposure to individuals who "solve" problems using violence and other anti-social manipulations -- this is the "modeling" effect and explains why the cycle of violence is often intergenerational, he said.

Animal abuse and domestic violence are correlated, but it can vary which occurs first, Mr. Shapiro said.

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Professionals who investigate one type of abuse are well positioned to observe other types of abuse, said Bee Friedlander, managing director at the Animals and Society Institute.

"It is important that all professionals who investigate violence in the home be trained on the cycle of violence, so that they are aware of the connection and better able to respond, Ms. Friedlander said, adding that the institute provides such training. "Some states, including Ohio, have gone a step further, with cross-reporting laws."

In Ohio, animal control officers/agents are mandated to report child abuse (along with teachers, doctors, lawyers, and child-care workers.)

"We do contact children services, adult protective services, and/or police when we see evidence," said John Dinon, executive director of the Toledo Area Humane Society. "I have also done several talks for Lucas County Children Services and other mandatory reporters (nurses primarily) so they understand the link, know we are a resource, and know to look out for animal cruelty and call us if they see it when investigating child abuse."

Society doesn't consider animal cruelty as severe as violence against humans. But animal abuse could be a tip-off to other violence or an abuse, Mr. Dinon said.

"If someone starts this behavior earlier in life, they have access to animals but don't have a spouse or kids yet," Mr. Dinon said.

A bill that has been passed by the Ohio House would require a child under 18 years of age who commits cruelty to a companion animal to undergo psychological evaluation to determine if the child needs individual or family counseling and, if recommended by the evaluation, to undergo individual or family counseling.

The legislation would also permit the court, when issuing a criminal protection order, a criminal domestic violence temporary protection order, a civil stalking order, a sexually oriented offense protection order, or a civil domestic violence protection order, or approving a civil domestic violence consent agreement, to include within the scope of the protection order or consent agreement any companion animal in the residence of the person to be protected.

Lynn Jacquot, director of the Battered Women's Shelter in the YWCA in downtown Toledo, said often if there are pets in the home, threats against them are part of a partner's tactics to keep the targeted partner under control and prevent plans for leaving.

"We have heard terrible stories from survivors about their pets being injured and even killed by their abuser," Ms. Jacquot said. "We offer safety and support for survivors and their family members, including their pets and other animals under their care. We understand that many survivors will not leave pets in harm's way, and there needs to be a safety plan that includes pet safety for the family."

The YWCA started a pet shelter program, the Jacob and Lauren Saunders Fund, in 2008 in partnership with the humane society, the dog warden, and local clinics, kennels, stables, and veterinarians.

"We have sheltered dogs, cats, bunny rabbits, gerbils, birds, and a ferret," she said. "We continue to expand our program, and this year we are working to provide networks to outlying counties."

Access to the program is through the YWCA's domestic violence crisis line at 888-341-7386.

Contact Tanya Irwin at: tirwin@theblade.com or 419-724-6066.



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