Studies show that there is a link between animal abuse and violence toward humans, including child, spousal, and elder abuse. Awareness of the importance of treating individuals who have abused animals is growing: more than 30 states and the District of Columbia currently recommend or mandate judges to require counseling for persons convicted of animal abuse. The Animals & Society Institute’s (ASI) intervention programs educate practitioners to recognize animal cruelty as a law enforcement/mental health issue and a possible indicator of other violent and antisocial behavior.
ASI offers a number of resources for professionals in law enforcement as well as social workers, mental health providers, and others interested in reducing violence towards animals and people.
There is growing recognition of the importance of taking animal abuse seriously. Research on the relationship between animal abuse and other violence has resulted in law enforcement recognizing animal abuse as a “crime against society.” As a result, starting in 2016, the FBI National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) began collecting information on reports of animal abuse as well as arrests and convictions. NIBRS collects detailed crime statistics that law enforcement agencies nationwide provide to the FBI. The information is critical to informing law enforcement policy and practice.
Despite this important step forward, most animal abuse cases are not reported and many are only charged as misdemeanors. There are few alternatives to hold individuals accountable and reduce the likelihood that they will repeat the behavior. Many people who have abused animals receive nothing more than a small fine. The result is a need for more effective responses to animal cruelty cases.
ASI has developed both traditional psychotherapeutic and diversion interventions to fill this gap. AniCare® Adult and AniCare® Child are the only published psychotherapeutic interventions specifically focused on animal abuse, while BARK is a psychoeducational diversion program.
AniCare® Adult Handbook
This handbook provides step-by-step guidance on how to identify, assess, and treat adults who have abused animals. The theoretical framework employed is broad, encompassing cognitive behavioral, psychodynamic, attachment, and trauma-based therapies. The intervention focuses on the importance of establishing accountability, changing attitudes toward animals, and learning more prosocial interpersonal skills, particularly the ability to empathize with others – including animals.
AniCare® Child Handbook
AniCare® Child is an assessment and treatment approach designed for mental health professionals working with children under the age of 17 who have perpetrated or witnessed animal abuse. It is useful to professionals from a range of other disciplines who work with youth, including social workers, attorneys, probation officers, judges, school counselors, teachers, child care providers, mental health providers, and community members. This intervention helps juveniles identify feelings and develop basic emotional management skills, such as problem-solving. It includes dealing with the impacts of witnessing animal abuse and violence toward family members.
BARK (Behavior, Accountability, Responsibility, and Knowledge: An Intervention Program for Animal Maltreatment Offenders)™
The Animals & Society Institute offers BARK training courses for law enforcement, mental health providers, social workers, and other practitioners who want to reduce animal abuse. Drawing on elements from both AniCare Adult and Child, it can be utilized in both individual and group settings. A self-directed offender format is under development.