Here’s a disturbing truth: People who are cruel to animals are more likely to be involved in domestic abuse, illegal gun possession, drug trafficking, gambling, rape and homicide. In fact, children who are cruel to animals are twice as likely to be arrested for a violent offense as a juvenile. According to The New York Times, the link between animal abuse and interpersonal violence is becoming so well established that many city governments now cross-train social-service and animal-control agencies. So, employees now can recognize signs of animal abuse and keep an eye out for other abusive behaviors.

For example, in many areas, veterinarians are required to notify the police if they suspect an animal has been abused. In California, Humane Society and animal control officers are now required to report suspected child abuse, because experts say an abused animal is often just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s one chilling example. A contractor on a job site heard a dog screaming next door. A woman was watching her dog drag its back legs across the garage floor, and claimed she couldn’t afford the vet bills. The contractor took the dog to his own vet and discovered the dog was paralyzed from having been beaten so often. The police investigated and it turned out the woman was also beating her son. This is overwhelmingly common. A recent study found that in homes where there’s domestic violence or physical abuse of children, the incidence of animal cruelty is 90%.

Randall Lockwood is the Senior Vice President of the ASPCA. He explains that people abuse animals as a way of controlling the behavior of everyone in the house. That's because it makes them afraid that they’ll be next.  Children who witness such abuse – or have been victimized themselves – frequently treat younger siblings or pets the way they were treated.

So how can this vicious cycle be stopped? Psychologists say one of the most promising methods for healing kids is to have them work with animals. Kids who generally shun physical and emotional closeness with people often find themselves talking openly to a horse or dog. Psychologists say that when you get an 80-pound kid controlling a 1,000 pound horse - or teaching a dog to do tricks - they gain a sense of power and control in a positive way. If you suspect an animal is being abused, contact your local police station, and log onto the website ASPCA.org.