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Animal abuse could be sign of domestic violence, humane society and Rose Brooks team up to show what to look for

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Police and prosecutors from around the metro area are learning Thursday how animal cruelty can be a sign of domestic violence in a household.

The Humane Society of the United States is teaming up with the Rose Brooks domestic violence shelter to teach officers how dog fighting and other examples of animal cruelty often are linked to more serious felonies.

"A lot of times when law enforcement sees a dog being abused they might think, 'Oh, it’s just a dog,' and have empathy for that dog, but not connect it to: Are their children in the home who are being abused?" said Zoe Agnew-Svoboda of the Rose Brooks Center. "Is there a partner in the home who's being abused? Hopefully today that will educate them to make those connections."

The experts say children who witness animal abuse are more than eight times more likely to commit a domestic violence crime as adults.

Some believe breaking the cycle of domestic abuse may start with identifying animal cruelty among adolescents.

"This training here is opening our eyes to the connection between violent crime and animal abuse," said Capt. Stacey Graves of the KCPD. "This is enlightening and very great training of all law enforcement and those involved in animal control."

Animals are considered property under the law, and cruelty cases are treated differently than when the victim of violence is a person.

But by learning to better identify crimes involving animals, organizers expect families and communities will be safer.

Just this week evidence of cruelty to animals prompted the Jackson County prosecutor to charge a man with first-degree assault against a person, in addition to animal abuse.