Animal Abuse & Violence Link: An Artist’s Traveling Dialogue

by Mary Haight on October 9, 2011

There are many ways artists come to see the issues of the day and share them with us. For one artist, her muse came in theanimal abuse form of a cat who survived abuse. That hopeful fact made the cat the hero of her own life and a poster cat for anyone who has been the subject of violence. Before you hear about the cat and the artist, a little background on animal abuse and violence against humans is in order.

While the connection between animal abuse and violence against people has been observed for hundreds of years, in more recent history, the social sciences have been providing empirical data, connecting the dots, proving that those who would harm animals are predisposed to use violence against people.  Animal cruelty has been a common refrain in serial killer profiles.  As law enforcement officers will tell you, when there is animal abuse in a house, there is often violence happening in the family and when there is a call for domestic violence, animal abuse is also likely. Communities are taking note.

Animal Abuse – Law Enforcement Approach Changes

With the help of empirical data cities and towns like Chicago are cross-reporting between social services and animal control, checking for other signs of trouble within the family when an animal abuse complaint is called in, then reporting it to social services. Conversely, when domestic violence is called in officers ask if there are pets in the house, reporting that to animal control. Other laws mandate that veterinarians notify the police if they suspect animal abuse. There are community outreach projects for at-risk youth to end cycles of violence especially where dog-fighting has been part of that violence. Yet this is not yet common knowledge at the street level.  Enter the artist.

Vicki Boatright, aka BZtat, a counselor and artist, has carved out her place on this subject making it her mission to spread the word on connections between animal abuse and violence against people. She uses a multimedia approach that includes painting, music, dance and video. Dr. Lorie Huston, in her interview with BZtat, explores this mission called “Okey’s Promise: Art for a Cause”, using public art to move people to action on the issue of animal abuse. Okey is the name of the cat mentioned at the beginning of this post. BZtat has combined all her skills in this mission, has added donated original music for her project and a talented young teen, Miah Thornton, who tells a story through dance during the performance.

Check out Lorie Huston’s interesting interview with the artists at Animal Cafe.

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