As a court-appointed special advocate, or CASA volunteer, one aspect Valerie Clarkson looks at when visiting a home is how the pets are treated and how they respond to their masters.
“I guarantee you if they’re abusing or neglecting an animal, they’re neglecting someone in that home,” the Animal Welfare League executive director and ordained minister said. “The link is, when it comes to animals, an abuser will first beat on an animal as an example.”
The link between animal abuse and later cruel behavior has been well documented in the case of mass murderer Jeffrey Dahmer and Columbine High School shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.
Clarkson recently attended a conference where Frank R. Ascione’s book, “Children and Animals, Exploring the Roots of Kindness and Cruelty” and “Silent Victims” by Pamela Carlisle Franks and Tom Flanagan were discussed.
“Some people will say abuse is when the collar is so tight there are maggots on the sores or animals so skinny they’re nothing but bones with meat hanging off. The abuse began long before maggot infestation or the animal lost so much weight
“I get a lot of calls about animal abuse, three or four a week. All I can do is ask them to please call the police department.”
She tells a story about neighbors calling when a woman moved and left a cat behind in a mobile home. The cat wouldn’t come to the neighbors. Clarkson found out the woman had children, too.
“I asked the callers if the woman often left the young children home alone. They said she did, but didn’t feel compelled to call anyone until they saw an animal being abused.”
On a CASA home inspection, Clarkson looks for everything. How the pet interacts with family members is a key to what is going on in a home.
“Does the dog have to sit by the master wearing a shock collar when there are visitors? I’m not saying a shock collar doesn’t have training value. But the animal shouldn’t have to sit in one place with the shock collar on and the shock collar remote in view.
“Is a shock collar being used because the dog is vicious?
“What kind of person keeps a vicious dog in a home with children?
“There are some dogs that are notoriously aggressive and others that are notoriously friendly. If that behavior is switched in a respective breed, there’s a clue something else may be going on. Is the dog aggressive because its abused? Is the dog cowering in a corner?”
Clarkson will ask for current immunizations for each pet. She asks what kinds of obedience training the dog and owner are learning and how long they’ve had the dog.
The AWL has a foster program for victims of domestic violence who own pets. Often shelters cannot accommodate animals. A victim will refuse to leave their abuser because they don’t want to leave the pet behind.
“People don’t want to be separated from their companion,“ Clarkson said. “Now we can say the pet is going to foster parents and the animal will be returned to him or her once they’re resettled.”
A free presentation on domestic violence and sexual abuse will be presented Wednesday at 4 p.m. at the Center Lake Pavilion, Warsaw. Keynote speaker is Ann M. DeLaney, executive director of The Julian Center, Indianapolis. For more information, contact Warsaw Police Department Victim Assistance Coordinator Becky Moreno at 574-372-9539, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
On the Net: www.awl-warsaw.org