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Sunday, October 11, 1998 Published at 18:10 GMT 19:10 UK


Charities join forces to fight abuse

The two charities best associated with fighting cruelty in the UK are to operate a join policy, with potential benefits for young people and pets.

The news comes as the BBC broadcasts a programme showing evidence that the abuse of children and pets often goes hand in hand.

Monday night's Panorama programme on BBC One, The Cruelty Connection, investigates measures taken in the UK and US to combat both types of cruelty.

In the UK scheme, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA) will exchange information about their work.

[ image: Pets may lead the authorities to abused children]
Pets may lead the authorities to abused children
NSPCC director Jim Harding said the public should recognise the connection and not treat the two issues as separate.

"Animals and children have one thing in common - they are both easy to hurt," he said.

"If we see someone thrashing a dog we need to think: `If this is how he treats his dog, imagine what he could do to his children'."

A pilot scheme has begun in Newcastle upon Tyne, following several horrific cases.

In one instance, while a young child was being badly neglected, the family dog starved to death in the garden.

In another, a teenage boy was not only sexually abused by his uncle, but was also forced to wring the necks of his beloved pet rabbits.

Mr Harding encourages RSPCA inspectors to "exercise their judgment" about whether the NSPCC should be called out.

"I certainly think that cross-referrals could be very effective in preventative measures," he tells Panorama.

Link to later life

There is also some evidence of a link with other crimes.

In the programme, FBI agent Robert Ressler says animal cruelty is a regular feature in the childhood behaviour of future killers.

"When a child is into destructive behaviour with inanimate, non-living and then eventually living animals, I think he is destined to follow that path to adult violence.

"I think it's naive to deny that," says the US agent.

The Panorama documentary is broadcast at 2200(BST) on BBC One, on Monday.

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