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Animal abuse can lead to murder – conference

Tuesday 9 Oct 2012 5:46 p.m.

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By Rachel Tiffen

A conference has heard that animal abuse is often used as a form of domestic violence, and that can escalate into murder.

Violent crime and its link to violence used on animals was the focus of the New Zealand Companion Animal Conference held in Wellington today.

It's hard to imagine how anyone could hurt a pet, but according to Phil Arkow of the National Link Coalition, it happens all too often and can lead to violence against humans.

“Animal abuse is almost always a red flag,” he says.

The National Link Coalition is a US organisation working to stop violence against people and animals, and highlighting the link between them.

“It's a predictor of future violence, particularly when children or teenagers either abuse animals themselves or witness the abuse,” Mr Arkow says.

With Taffy Hotene it started with strangling kittens, progressed to theft and aggravated robbery, then Hotene murdered journalist Kylie Jones.

Teenagers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold bragged about cruelty to cats before opening fire at Columbine High School.

SPCA executive director Bob Kerridge wants to understand more about the issue.

“The big thing with abuse is you have to look at the mentality. Why do they do it? And if they're capable of doing it in a particularly horrific way, how far will they go?”

Experts say animal cruelty is not just a crime, it's a “social sickness”.

Wellington SPCA inspectors deal with about 70 abused animals every month.

The Women's Refuge sees it too. There was a case where a woman's partner tore her kitten's head off as a threat.

“We're now in the process of building an animal shelter next to our new Women's Refuge shelter,” manager of the Kapiti refuge Caroline Herewini says.

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