The Community Context of Animal and Human Maltreatment: Is there a Relationship between Animal Maltreatment and Human Maltreatment: Does Neighborhood Context Matter?

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Social Welfare
animal abuse
animal neglect
animal welfare
domestic violence
child abuse
Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance
Social Work
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The purpose of the study is to explore the influence of demographic and neighborhood factors on the phenomenon of animal maltreatment in an urban setting as well as the association of animal maltreatment with human maltreatment. Using a unique dataset of animal maltreatment from the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the distribution and prevalence of animal neglect, abuse, and dog fighting in Philadelphia were mapped with Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Statistical analysis was employed to examine the relationship between animal maltreatment and neighborhood factors, domestic violence, and child maltreatment. The low correlation between animal abuse and neighborhood factors in this study suggests that animal abuse may be better explained as an individual phenomenon than a behavior that is a function of neighborhoods. However, animal neglect does correlate with demographic, cultural, and structural aspects of block groups, suggesting social disorganization may lead to animal neglect. This study also suggests that dog fighting is a crime of opportunity, as dog fighting correlates with indicators of abandoned properties. Finally, this study is unable to demonstrate a community link between animal maltreatment and child maltreatment, which does not preclude the link among individuals. The findings suggest caution in policies and advocacy campaigns that link human and animal violence in all arenas.

Richard Gelles
James Serpell
Ram Cnaan
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