Rehabilitate, stop animal abuse

posted November 7th, 2015 by
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Anicare of Oklahoma

Working to rehabilitate, stop animal abuse

By Wilhelm Murg

 

Studies have shown a correlation between animal abuse and other social problems, including child abuse, spousal abuse and other violent behaviors.  Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia have mandated or recommend that judges order treatment for anyone convicted of animal cruelty in order to stop it before it spreads. Local teacher and activist, Martha Brown, has started a grassroots campaign in Tulsa to help Oklahoma adopt such a policy. Her newly formed organization is Anicare of Oklahoma.

The name comes from the Anicare Program designed by the Animals and Society Institute, an independent think tank based in Ann Arbor, Mich. The group is dedicated to stopping the cycle of violence between animal cruelty and human abuse, promoting new, stricter animal protection laws, and further studying the relationships between humans and animals.

The Anicare program, under the umbrella of the Oklahoma Alliance for Animals, is a combination of assessment and treatment for animal abusers built around the concepts of “accountability, respect/freedom, reciprocity, accommodation, empathy, attachment and nurturance,” according to the Institute’s literature. Brown is currently working out the details for a seminar to be held 2015 in Tulsa where the program would be taught to education, psychological and law enforcement professionals.

Brown says she was associated with a group, Psychologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which transformed into ASI over the years. “It’s mostly an academic group that publishes papers on issues of animals and human problems and relationships, but they started talking about Anicare as this program they had developed for intervention in cases of animal abuse, [rehabbing] the perpetrators, which could be anyone from small children to adults,” she says.

The program is structured to concentrate on the attitude of the perpetrator. “It’s a matter of getting the abusers to accept the fact that what they have done is wrong, and to learn how to take responsibility for it,” Brown says. “Also, the counselors are encouraged to notice whether these people have been abused as children because there is a very real connection between people who have been abused who go on to abuse animals as they get older. People in their own households may have abused animals; sometimes parents hurt the pets as punishment when the kids have done something wrong, so the children are often encouraged or grow up thinking it is OK to abuse animals. They’ve wrongly learned through their families that animals have no value independently of what we can get out of them.  These attitudes are often ingrained into the people.”

Getting both children and adults to take responsibility for their actions is another one of the main goals of the program, which is actually split into two parts parts—one for children and young people and one for adults. “Very often abusers will not take responsibility for what they have done, so there is a whole series of questions, not to make them feel guilty, but to try to show them other ways of looking at their behavior and also at animals,” Brown says. “The hope is that if they change their ways of thinking and feeling about animals, they may also change their behavior toward them. It uses applied principals that are already established in psychology and psychiatric intervention to this specific problem.”

Brown pointed out that animal abuse is often connected to other problems within families so there are scenarios where the program calls for getting the abusers’ families involved with the therapy. “You have to really concentrate on some of these things because the people in therapy are quite clever at trying to change the subject or keeping away from acknowledging any kind of wrongdoing, or that they could have done something differently,” Brown says. “You have to be pretty persistent in dealing with them, and   I imagine this is true with other kinds of problems as well; if you are too accusative, then the kids tend to be defensive of what the parents have done. Often, the parents have been abusive to them as well.”

Brown does not see this as a very expensive process, but she says it does need a lot of organization and volunteers. “We have financing for training workshops, and eventually we’ll need a little more money, but probably not a great deal,” she says. “What we really need is publicity, so people know there’s somewhere to go in cases when there is suspected animal abuse. We have a list of people who are interested; we have a list of organizations that we think will be  useful in referring people, and we are putting a presentation  together so we can talk to representatives of these groups because a lot of it will be voluntary.

“There are examples in the materials of children that have been referred by school counselors or their parents who have just   noticed what was happening, so publicity is one of the main things we will need.  We’ll need the help of some judges, some lawyers,   and some psychologists that are in practice, and any counseling groups, any therapy groups. I know that in some cases, judges in places like Chicago, Kansas City and Denver have been sentencing people who have been charged with animal abuse to complete the program as part of their treatment. We know there are programs in those places that are working well, and there’s no reason we can’t do the same thing here.”

The Tulsa seminars are scheduled for Feb. 27 and 28, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at College Hill Presbyterian Church. “The seminars are training mostly for psychologists, but the first part is for anybody    in the criminal justice system or school counselors, anyone involved in the counseling and therapy communities, for talking about the general ideas and their approach to intervention in the case of animal abuse,” Brown says.  “That would be the first morning of the two-day workshop, and the rest of the time is more technical training for people who would be doing the intervention.”

With the community’s help, Brown sees her program as a step toward building a stronger, healthier Oklahoma.

For more information on the Anicare program, visit the Animals & Society Institute website: www.animalsandsociety.org. To stay updated on upcoming seminars, volunteer opportunities and more, visit the Facebook page, Anicare of Oklahoma: Stopping Animal Abuse, or call Martha Brown at (918) 583-3652.

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