‘Report Animal Abuse. Stop Domestic Abuse’ – Desmond’s Army launches first billboard campaign
A new billboard campaign launched Labor Day depicts the link between animal cruelty and domestic violence.
“They’re very powerful. They’re very graphic images,” said Zilla Cannamela, president of Desmond’s Army Animal Law Advocates, which is behind the billboards on I-91 south and I-84 west in Hartford. Each shows an injured dog next to a vulnerable woman or child with the words, “Report Animal Abuse. Stop Domestic Abuse.”
“If you're saving animals, you're saving the children. You're saving the women and men that are in bad relationships, the elderly – it’s all connected,” Cannamela told News 12.
It’s the first billboard campaign for Desmond’s Army, whose volunteers are regulars at state courthouses, showing up to the animal abuse cases they track and giving a voice to the voiceless victims. Desmond's Army also works with state lawmakers to create laws that protect animals. In 2016, Connecticut enacted Desmond's Law, which puts a pro-bono attorney or law student on animal cruelty cases to advocate for the animal.
“It took three years to get it passed,” Cannamela explained.
The law, and the group, are named after a dog that was starved, beaten, and strangled to death. Desmond’s owner confessed to the dog’s murder, but his conviction was scrubbed after he completed a diversionary program. Cannamela said while animal cruelty arrests and prosecutions are up since Desmond’s Law, penalties are often little more than a slap on the wrist.
“It’s horribly frustrating to see them continually walk away,” she told News 12.
Desmond's Army launched the billboard campaign to target a larger audience, many of whom are unaware of the domestic abuse connection.
“We felt that this was a very powerful way to get the message across,” Cannamela said.
According to the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, a review of national research studies shows:
- Animals were harmed in 88% of homes where a child was physically abused.
- 75% of female survivors of domestic violence report their pets were threatened or intentionally harmed by their partner.
- Children exposed to domestic violence are three times more likely to be cruel to animals.
- 45% of caseworkers working with the elderly encountered animal abuse or neglect co-occurring with elder abuse.
In a statement to News 12, DCF Commissioner Vannessa Dorantes said:
"The correlation between child maltreatment and animal cruelty is well documented. Collectively, it takes each of us in our local communities to remain focused and diligent to protect those in need.
The advocacy once again of Desmond's Army has brought these important societal issues to the forefront of our attention. We are grateful for their collaboration and for the partnerships established with the Department of Agriculture and the Office of the Attorney General leading to us to taking critical action on behalf of those most vulnerable across our state.
Members of the public can make a report of animal cruelty directly to the local Animal Control Department in the town where the concerns have been noted or by calling (860) 713-2506 as well as via e-mail at AGR.AnimalControl@ct.gov. Those wishing to make a report can remain anonymous.
A reasonable suspicion of child maltreatment can be made to the Child Abuse and Neglect Careline by dialing 1-800-842-2288. The Careline is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Callers to the Careline can remain anonymous."
Cannamela said she hopes the campaign is eye-opening not just for the public, but lawmakers and officials in the judicial system, convincing them to recognize that one's treatment of animals is closely associated with the treatment of fellow humans.
“We’re looking for the judicial system to take animal cruelty seriously,” said Cannamela.