The condition of public health in a society depends on many factors. To achieve good standards in this sphere, it is crucial to identify harmful factors, introduce effective laws that would deal with these factors, and to realize these laws in practice.
In this paper, we will attempt to identify one of such factors, the level of cruelty towards animals, show its relation to public health, and offer some legal tools that might prove useful in addressing the problem. The problem of animal abuse is significant for the public health of a society.
Despite the fact that public health legislation does not include this issue (for instance, in Baltimore County Code the article concerned with animals (#12) is separate from the article concerned with public health (#13) (American Legal Publishing, 2015)), the problem of cruelty towards animals has an important correlation with the area of public health, or, more precisely, with one of its parts – behavioral health.
Indeed, it is evident that violence towards animals is, in most cases, related to violence against humans. For instance, Flynn (2011) argues that “animal abuse is linked to a variety of interpersonal violence, including bullying, juvenile delinquency, adult violent crimes and other nonviolent offenses”; it has been shown that cruelty towards animals often “co-occurs with woman-battering” (p. 454).
Therefore, the link between animal abuse and public health exists, and it demands both public and legal attention. The prevention of cruelty towards animals is a major factor that might contribute to preventing interpersonal violence; for example, Flynn (2011) argues that ending violence against animals “is an important step in ending all violence” (p. 454).
It is stated that in 2013 many police officers did not consider animal abuse a vital problem, treating it “as a minor property crime” (Smith, 2015); many of them consider it a “Fluffy-Muffy issue”, not worth worrying about (Siebert, 2010). Even though there exists legislature protecting animals in Baltimore County (American Legal Publishing, 2015; Baltimore County Government, 2014), it is apparent that it needs to be adjusted in order to enable law enforcers to elicit the facts of animal violence and prevent them more effectively.
The law should also make the change in the officers’ attitude towards the problem possible on the institutional level; for instance, it might establish specific training programs elaborating the importance of the issue. It is also possible to legally introduce anti-violence programs into the school curriculum (e.g., into primary schools). Clearly, such programs need to be carefully designed and well-implemented to be effective.
As we have seen, the problem of animal abuse, being linked to interpersonal violence, is directly related to the sphere of public health. Battling animal abuse is vital to address the problem of behavioral health of the society. To do this, it is possible to introduce legislation which would allow the law enforcers to protect animals more effectively, as well as to create laws that would introduce the explanation of the issue to schoolchildren.
American Legal Publishing. (2015). Baltimore County Code. Web.
Baltimore County Government. (2014). Animal laws and policies. Web.
Flynn, C. P. (2011). Examining the links between animal abuse and human violence. Crime, Law and Social Change, 55(5), 453-468. Web.
Siebert, C. (2010). The animal-cruelty syndrome. Web.
Smith, V. (2015). A dog in the fight: Baltimore’s enforcement of animal-cruelty laws is getting some bite. Web.