Webinar presenter Phil Arkow answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Connecting the Dots in Civil and Criminal Justice: Protecting People by Focusing on Animal Abuse. Here are just a few of his responses.
Audience Question: Since we were talking especially about civil interactions here, with this particular webinar, what specific recommendations might you have for courtroom professionals, judges, etc. regarding understanding the impacts of the Link for their civil cases?
Phil Arkow: The reason I mentioned civil cases are because these may include divorce settlements, child custody disputes, or foster care issues for children. Those are the types of civil cases where knowing about the family’s relationships with the animals, their history with animals, or any animal abuse can be of vital interest. We have several new documents to help family court judges work on this. If you go to our website, NationalLinkCoalition.org, and look in our resources section, you’ll see a whole area of resources for court professionals that includes a brand-new bench card for judges for that we did for Virginia. There’s also one that came out from Florida last year. And we are working very closely with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, NCJFCJ.org. They have a whole section on their website about dealing with these issues, with great resources there, and they’re doing trainings as well. So this is where we’re also focusing on some of the civil aspects of The Link, as well as the criminal cases.
Audience Question: What are the best programs for treating animal cruelty offenders? What’s the best approach?
Phil Arkow: There isn’t one. Unfortunately, sorry, I don’t mean to laugh. This is a question that comes up all the time. There are 34 states, I believe, now, that have some kind of legal provision, saying that courts can impose psychological assessment or treatment for animal cruelty offenders. In concept, this sounds great. The reality is that there are several programs out there, including the AniCare Adult and Juvenile models from the Animals and Society Institute, and their spinoff program called Bark, and Barbara Boat’s Boat Inventory of Animal Related Experiences. There are several others out there. They have not been used enough to be able to evaluate them for any kind of effectiveness. We just don’t know whether they solve the problem, whether we have a recidivism issue, and there aren’t that many therapists out there who are skilled in using it. So, they’re not implemented all that often. And then judges may not know that those programs are available. So, we have some vehicles that are available, we just don’t know how well they work. And so, it’s hard to say what to recommend. Look at either Anicare or the Boat Inventory of Animal Related Experiences or e-mail me and I’ll give you some connections to find those. But again, we need more people trained to use them.
Audience Question: We hear a lot about house pets, do you have any statistics on the involvement of horses or larger animals? We know, horse hoarding is a serious issue, for example, but what about the other problems it exists for other pets? So, does the Link also connect to, let’s say horse abuse or horse neglect that type of thing?
Phil Arkow: Gail, you’re absolutely right. The problem is we don’t have anything specifically on that. We haven’t had a lot of research on it or a lot of cases to work with. It is out there. The concept behind the Link works regardless of what the species of the animal is. But we just don’t have much to go with. So, we’d love, you know, some more research on that topic. Absolutely.
Audience Question: So, can you re-share, or re-explain the statistic you mentioned earlier, about the connection between animal abuse and first responders were twice as likely? Can you go back to that specific stat and kind of talk about it and re-explain it again, please?
Phil Arkow: Like I said, this is something Andrew Campbell came up with. He’ll be on November 28th, but you don’t want to wait nine months for that. The threat of death for a first responder in a domestic violence case is very high. That risk doubles when there’s animal abuse as well as domestic violence. And again, e-mail me, I can get you the citation for this. But the short answer is that it doubles the risk of death for the first responders who are usually police officers.
Audience Question: Do you have experience with reported domestic violence in which the victim suffers from memory disorders, such as Alzheimer’s? And when violent episodes have been reported without actually having happened is it because the person has illusionary thinking? How do we tell if there’s actually actual violence happening or if it’s a symptom of other memory issues?
Phil Arkow: I honestly have no way to answer that question. It’s a legitimate question, absolutely, but I don’t know. I’ve never seen anything about that. I know there is some research out there about domestic violence in the disabled community but whether that includes people with memory issues or cognitive orders or not, I’m not really sure. So I just don’t really know. It’s a great question though.
Audience Question: When animal abuse is co-occurring with elder abuse, what is the typical nature of the abuse? Is it typically physical abuse? Or is it the animal has become a pawn for manipulation by, let’s say, an adult child? Or is it more likely to be neglected?
Phil Arkow: It’s much more likely to be neglect, followed by self-neglect. Those are the two most dominant aspects of it. But any of those other features can be there as well, absolutely.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Connecting the Dots in Civil and Criminal Justice: Protecting People by Focusing on Animal Abuse.