LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — A link between domestic violence, child, and animal abuse is being found here and around the country.
"Smells good in this joint, don't it?" asked Animal Control Officer Josh Klumpe. He's joking about the smell because an animal shelter isn't exactly a candle store.
Being an animal control officer isn't glamorous but recent studies show this job has the potential to put violent criminals away before they move on to human victims.
A new-found link between domestic violence, child and animal abuse is raising awareness of a big problem.
"I think it's always been there, but animal law and animal abuse as a whole is one of the least prosecuted things nationwide," said Klumpe.
He hopes that changes because he believes most abuse begins with an animal.
"They're just an easier victim," said Klumpe.
But they're much more difficult to read. If you think human victims of abuse are slow to report, try an animal who can't use words. Their physical symptoms aren't as obvious either.
"They don't bruise quite like you and me. It doesn't show, like if somebody punches us in the eye, we're going to get a black eye," said Klumpe.
It's all in the details.
"Do they cower when a male is around?" asked Klumpe. "Do they cower when you raise your hand?"
But his job doesn't stop at animals. When he's on a call, he pays close attention to the demeanor of kids, spouses and potential abusers in each home. Sometimes, the abuser uses the pet as a weapon to control the abused.
"Why'd you make me do this to the dog? Why'd you make me do this to the cat? Kind of thing," said Klumpe. "I'm going to kill the dog if you leave me."
YWCA Domestic Violence Victim Advocate, Norah Ashcraft has been collecting data on this topic for the past 16 months. Her numbers show 27 domestic violence abusers also abused animals in Greater Lafayette. There's another disturbing trend too.
"I found out that 11 out of 27 of these people's children had been hurt anywhere from being strangled, hit with a belt, hit, punched, kicked," said Ashcraft.
Kids have child protective services. Abused spouses have domestic violence shelters. But there's no government required program for pets. That's why this community is fortunate to have volunteers at Almost Home Humane Society and the Pet Safe Program at Purdue.
"We average about 15-20 animals a year," said Pet Safe Director Dr. Janice Kritchevsky. "It's not you know, a huge number but to the people that use us it's a real life saving service."
It goes beyond a temporary place to sleep and eat.
"In addition to being housed, they get needed vaccinations and are examined by a veterinarian here on the faculty," said Dr. Kritchevsky.
"We try to do it for 30 days or less just to keep our space in the building working," added Almost Home Humane Society Executive Director Stacy Rogers. "And it always depends on how many animals we have in at the moment."
So what can you do to help? You can donate money, volunteer to foster, or at the very least, keep your eyes open for signs of abuse.
"If you don't call, we don't know," said Klumpe.
Officer Klumpe loves his not-so-glamorous job and he hopes more people catch onto its importance. Tougher animal abuse laws and more money for staff would be a nice start. Last year, they responded to nearly 4,000 animal-related calls.
"There's only four of us," said Klumpe.
If you would like to help with this cause, click here.
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