BOOKS: Silent Victims: Recognizing and Stopping Abuse of the Family Pet

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2007:

Silent Victims:
Recognizing and Stopping Abuse of the Family Pet
by Pamela Carlisle-Frank & Tom Flanagan
University Press of America (4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 220,
Lanham, MD 20766), 2006. 296 pages, paperback. $39.95.

Social scientist Pamela Carlisle-Frank and Tom Flanagan, a
Boston police officer turned humane officer, in Silent Victims pull
together information from a broad range of sources, seasoned by
practical experience, which might usefully be on the required
reading list for anyone aspiring to a career in social work or law
enforcement–but for what specific class?
Few universities teach humane law enforcement, or the
sociology of animal rescue. Newly hired humane officers these days
often have some formal law enforcement training, and many of the
best humane society crisis counselors have background in social work.

Yet humane work is usually not recommended as a career to which
trained graduates of university police or social work programs
should aspire, in part because humane work usually pays less.
Conversely, veteran police and social workers may better
recognize their need for knowledge about animal-related cruelty and
neglect than most of the people who teach new recruits. This may
change as society attaches increasing importance to apprehending and
successfully prosecuting perpetrators of crimes against animals, and
preventing crimes against animals.
Of note are markedly increased news coverage of cruelty and
neglect cases in recent years, and the popularity of the television
series Animal Precinct.
Meanwhile, Silent Victims’ first chapter, “Why we all need
to get involved in stopping animal abuse,” probably will not be
needed by anyone who shells out the cover price voluntarily. More
useful will be “What we know about animal abuse in the violent home,”
“When the perpetrator is a batterer,” and “When the perpetrator is a
child or adolescent.” The most valuable chapters of all are “The
neglected animal,” “When it stops being love and starts being
hoarding,” “Solutions to stopping animal hoarding in your
neighborhood,” and “Recognizing red flags and finding those who need
help”–not least because hoarding is by far the most common form of
animal abuse, yet may be the least understood by the public, mass
media, and the judiciary.
The final chapters are “Partnering and seeking solutions for
abused animals,” and “Getting started: resources for speaking out
and helping silent victims.”
Here Carlisle-Frank and Flanagan in essence argue for a
return to the 19th century approach of recognizing cruelty and
neglect as continuums, with both human and animal victims,
requiring a coordinated approach to handle effectively.
There was no philosophical concept behind the mid-20th
century trend toward separating humane services for humans from those
helping animals. The impetus was mostly just economic necessity.
Taxpayers could be persuaded to fund human services, but funding for
most animal help could only be raised through donations.
In hindsight, both humans and animals suffered from the
division. Intervention on behalf of battered women and abused
children has become markedly more frequent and more successful as
result of the American Humane “Link” and Humane Society of the U.S.
“First Strike” programs, which promote awareness of animal abuse and
neglect as precursors or indicators of parallel crimes against
humans. Police have discovered that crimes against animals provide
vital clues to solving crimes against humans, while the passage of
felony cruelty laws in all but a handful of states have provided
prosecutors with an effective means of locking up dangerous
perpetrators before they commit homicide.
Carlisle-Frank and Flanagan have effectively translated this
experience into training for the next generation of law enforcement
and social work professionals. Ahead is the problem of putting it
into academic curriculums.

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