AWI Addresses Animal Abuse and Behavioral Health in Children

In the last 20 years, law enforcement, policymakers, health care professionals, and the general public have become more aware of the significant link between animal abuse and child abuse. As with domestic violence, animal abuse often occurs in the same households as child abuse. But there is another troubling connection: Animal abuse is one of the first signs of antisocial behavior in a child. Recurrent animal abuse by a child throughout childhood is a strong predictor of later serious delinquent and criminal behavior. Recognizing this relationship can lead to greater protection for animals, children, and society in general.

On March 15, AWI’s Dr. Mary Lou Randour took that message to the 29th Annual Research and Policy Conference on Child, Adolescent, and Young Adult Behavioral Health, held in Tampa. As the conference’s only speaker to address the connection between child abuse and animal abuse, Mary Lou offered guidance for early identification and intervention in animal abuse cases—more effective strategies that can save more animal lives than punishment after the fact.

Among the many behavioral health care professionals attending the presentation was a representative of the Child Welfare Information Gateway (CWIG), an online resource provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services that connects child welfare and related professionals. As a result of this encounter, the CWIG website ( now has a link to the AWI webpage that offers resources relevant to animal abuse and child abuse. This will help build greater understanding of animal abuse among child welfare professionals.