There is no doubt of a strong bond between animals and humans (Morovati, Steinberg, Taylor and Lee 2008) and Wrye (2009) discusses the concept of petness and that what constitutes as a pet is in fact a social construct into which many people happily enter despite the never-ending expenses and emotional toil.
There is evidence to suggest that there is also a strong correlation between owning pets, especially at a young age, and having higher levels of empathy in later life. As humans, we are designed to form bonds and attachments and in times of need, animals can fulfil the roles that would otherwise be filled by humans (Hawkins, Williams and SSPCA 2017; Payne, Bennet and McGreevy 2015). Bierer (200) and Meril (2012) (as cited in Khalid and Naqvi 2016) report on the positive relationship between pet attachment and empathy for adults in that “owning pets in childhood had predictive value for developing empathy in adulthood” (pp 67). Wrye (2009) mentions that the concept of petness leads to thinking of pets as objects and unfortunately in this sense, they can be taken advantage of.
Several studies have shown that social workers should be instructed to take notice of possible animal abuse due to the fact that if there is abuse towards animals, there will usually also be abuse towards children (Girardi and Pozzulo 2012; Faver and Strand 2003). Many studies have shown that there is a deep correlation between animal cruelty and aggression (Vrećko 2018) and also that threats and actual harm to pets is used to manipulate situations to the abusers will (Faver and Strand 2003). Children who live in homes where interpersonal violence and domestic violence occurs often grow up experiencing emotional issues including depression, anxiety, withdrawal, increased self-esteem issues and suicidal thoughts (Thompson and Trice-Black 2012; Lundy and Grossman 2005).
Bonnie McCrossan, BCouns, Safe Pets Safe Families 2019