Links between animal, human abuse |

Links between animal, human abuse

FRISCO – The excuse “boys will be boys” no longer flies when it comes to animal abuse.According to Kay Dahlinger, chief probation office of the Aurora Municipal Court, there’s no justification for screaming at or hitting dogs, or abusing other animals. In fact, she maintains it’s a sign of violent behavior that will continue to escalate.Dahlinger and three other professionals will talk about the link between animal and human abuse and how to break the cycle Monday at the Summit County Community and Senior Center. Diane Balkin, Denver deputy district attorney, will begin the day talking about data and prosecution of animal abusers. Dahlinger will follow up on probation and treatment options. Andy Archuleta, fire investigator coordinator for Juvenile Fire Setter Intervention, will discuss how children who set fires are at risk to develop more violent behaviors. Guido J. Gonzales Lewis, chief investigator with the Dumb Friends League, will talk about how he investigates animal abuse.Summit County Animal Control and Shelter is sponsoring the panel discussion to teach professionals and residents about how to stop the cycle of violence. This is the first time such a panel has come to Summit County, and as of Wednesday, 21 people had signed up. In the past two years, six cases of animal cruelty or neglect have led to charges in Summit County, said Lesley Hall, animal control supervisor. Animal shelter administrative clerk and humane educator Donna Taylor says it’s important for everyone in the county to be aware of the issue so they can work together to report violent situations.What is THE LINK?THE LINK, a team of professionals who recognize the correlation between animal abuse, firesetting and domestic violence, work together to educate other professionals and community members in order to prevent future violence. Prior to THE LINK, professionals didn’t cross reference perpetrators or cases with different agencies, such as the police and fire department. THE LINK not only opens lines of communication, but also trains other people about what to look for and how to handle animal abuse.THE LINK began in April 1999, the same month as the Columbine shootings. Dahlinger said there is evidence that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold practiced using explosives with live animals before shooting victims at Columbine High School. “There is definitely a correlation between animal abuse and violence against people because animal abuse is practice, and as kids get older, it turns into more and more and more (abuse),” Dahlinger said.After 44 years in the corrections field, Dahlinger has plenty of stories. Recently, arson investigators in Aurora discovered a house fire started from kids setting an animal on fire. The animal ran and set drapes on fire. Another man skinned a rabbit in front of his daughter and placed it on the mantel in order to intimidate her and show her “what he could do.”Dahlinger says parents and other people need to immediately intervene when they see a child abusing an animal. “Animal abuse is a major red flag as to what kind of person you have on your hands,” she said. “It’s not going to stop with the animal. Animal abuse leads to human violence, and that becomes another cycle that gets worse and worse.”Symptoms in children include, but are not limited to, violently throwing toys, temper tantrums, aggressive behavior toward siblings, bullying other kids or hitting animals, Dahlinger said.While some people dismiss yelling or hitting a dog as “discipline,” Dahlinger says there’s no excuse for such behavior.”There are ways to discipline dogs without violence,” she said. “If you have to start hitting a dog, there’s something wrong with you. You have to go to doggy school to get trained. Little swats, screaming – anything – is wrong. There’s no reason for that.”The Stats– Those who commit animal cruelty are 70 percent more likely to commit crimes against people.– Interviews of convicted mass murderers revealed nearly 100 percent of them abused and killed animals before the criminals escalated to violence against people. Most of them also had a history of setting fires.– Of the nation’s high school shootings in the past six years, the gunmen had a history of animal abuse in almost every case.– In one survey of battered women, 82 percent said their attacker had threatened family pets. In 69 percent of those cases, their significant other had killed at least one pet.– Multiple other surveys showed that up to 70 percent of battered women stay in violent situations because crisis shelters do not accept animals, and the women do not want to leave their pet behind with their abuser.– A child who learns aggression against living creatures is more likely to rape, abuse and kill other humans as an adult.– For more information, contact Jeanette Smith at (303) 326-8290 or e-mail Source: THE LINKTHE LINK– What: Discussion about the link between animal and human abuse and what to do about it– When: 9 a.m. registration; panelists speak between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. with lunch on your own– Where: Summit County Community and Senior Center, near Frisco– Cost: $10 includes drinks, snacks, raffle and handoutsOpen to the public– R.S.V.P.: Today at (970) 668-3230Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or at

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