"We went looking for a stream, we found a river. When we went looking for a river, we found an ocean."
The complexity and implications of the Link between animal abuse and human aggression were found to be far greater than we had imagined. This is NOT only about animals but about society itself. The results of our programs are ESSENTIAL reading for those politicians who have genuine concern about their society and anyone who still believes that animal abuse is an irrelevancy and exists in isolation.
If we consider all the research previously enacted exploring this concept and we combine this with our study program in Eastern Europe, we uncover issues of a national magnitude, negatively impacting throughout such societies. The 'Making the Link Study' was the first measured and published program ever conducted in the region. We now have a new document authored by Roshni Trehan Ladny of Florida State University and Laura Meyer of Denver University awaiting publication, outlining the issues and suggesting possible solutions.
But first... the problem: In the USA, animal abuse profiling informs authorities such as the FBI about 'at risk' individuals and families. In other countries this Link informs police forces and alerts them to the possibility of associated abusive behaviour by 'at risk' individuals and families. Applying the same criteria, Romania was found to be an 'at risk' national culture. This means a nation 'at risk' of extensive violence and aggression.
Why should Romania be different? To answer this question, the definition of animal abuse must be considered. An early definition used the term 'socially unacceptable' in the definition of abuse. In Romania, the absence of punishments for animal abuse allied with a government initiative to 'eradicate' homeless animals, has further diminished the social status of the animals. We found extensive exposure of children to domestic violence and 86% of children in the study had seen animal abuse in public places. If we pull all this together, we can identify a cycle where exposure to domestic abuse 'trains' the children of the normality of aggression. They then seek to enact this with 'displaced aggression' against a 'soft target' and the socially status diminished animals provide this 'soft target' and in doing so, provides an aggression practice and enhancement facility. In Romania because of the overwhelming number of homeless animals, the government introduced a law 258/2013 with the objective of 'eradicating' the homeless population by 'catching and killing'. Advice from OIE and WHO that this would not be a successful strategy and would continue indefinitely, was ignored. Authorities derive handsome profits from this process.
Aggressive practices 'learned' by the children are then enacted against the freely available animals. Practice of abuse unchecked has been found to continue and increase the abuse potential and result in it being enacted against people and property. Also witnessing abuse unchecked, creates the impression that this is socially normative behavior.