The Link Between Violence to Animals and People Protecting Children

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A Publication of the American Humane Association
Vol. 15, No. 2, 1999
Available for $11 from Robyn Alsop, editor, (303) 792-9417, or

This issue of Protecting Children, a publication of the Children's Division of the American Humane Association, focuses on how children who are cruel to animals often grow up to be violent to people. It also describes how pets can be used to help children learn to be more empathic and compassionate toward other children and adults.

This publication provides non-technical information that can be useful to youth workers about how cruelty to animals is an early warning sign associated with violence toward humans, and how pets can be used by teachers and therapists to teach children to be more compassionate, and can also win their trust. The writings are based in part on research, but unfortunately, very few studies are quoted to back up its claims. It would be more persuasive if it included more research findings. However, it briefly describes several studies evaluating the impact of teaching empathy in the classroom, including one study indicating that "humane education" has a significant impact on the attitudes and behaviors of fourth and fifth graders, but not on first and second graders.

The United States had laws against cruelty to animals long before it had laws against child abuse, and even today child care workers are routinely paid less than those who work with animals. The American Humane Association is concerned with the treatment of children and animals, and has creatively linked them in some of their programs and research in ways that will be of interest to many youth workers.