Understanding the link between animal cruelty and family violence: the Bioecological Systems Model

Brinda Jegatheesan*, M.J. Enders - Slegers, Elizabeth Ormerod, Paula Boyden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Web of Science)


Violence towards animals and violence towards people are often interconnected problems, and as such, this phenomenon has been termed the Link. Violence towards animals is a strong predictor that the abuser may inflict violence on people. However, it must not be assumed this is always the case. Professionals treating an animal or a human patient/client who has been subjected to abuse are uniquely situated to act in the role of ‘first responders’ when they suspect or recognize animal abuse, human abuse, or family violence. To more fully understand the Link the authors introduce Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological systems model through which to examine the complexity of the problem. Using data from earlier studies in which they interviewed police officers, other law enforcers, veterinarians, social workers, and community and family members, the authors discuss the correlation between animal cruelty and family violence. Furthermore, they examine how Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological systems model has the potential to better support animal and human health and welfare professionals in the identification of strategies for animals and humans caught in abusive settings. The authors recommend that these professionals become familiar with the bioecological systems model, which will enable them to better understand the psychological problems of animal cruelty and family violence and the different bioecological contributing factors. The authors emphasize transdisciplinary collaboration as vital in the recognition, prevention, and protection of animal and human victims trapped in family violence.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3116
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • Animal Welfare
  • Animals
  • Bronfenbrenner's bioecological systems model
  • Domestic Violence
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Veterinarians
  • animal abuse
  • animal cruelty
  • child abuse
  • family violence
  • the Link
  • Family violence
  • The Link
  • Animal cruelty
  • Child abuse
  • Animal abuse
  • Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological systems model


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