The physical aspects of abuse and neglect in animals are relatively well characterized – they can be seen outwardly in the form of body condition and physical scars. But researchers in child abuse now consider the psychological and emotional consequences of abuse and neglect to be more damaging, and last for much longer, than the physical consequences. And yet in both children and animals, the physical aspects of abuse provoke the greatest outrage and attention among the scientific as well as the general community.
What is known about the psychological effects of abuse and neglect in animals? Can the effects be readily recognized? How damaging is it? How is it treated? Is this the reason some animals “snap” and become suddenly violent? Equally important, are there psychological factors that increase the chances of being abused – do certain psychological traits place an animal at risk for abuse? This knowledge may permit intervention that prevents, rather than treats, abuse and neglect of animals.