Keystone Link Coalition aims to find the link between child and animal abuse


(WHTM) — The Keystone Link Coalition is the brainchild of two women, with the goal of connecting the dots between animal and child abuse, and ultimately, preventing it before it happens.

“You would find that I would be scratching my head thinking how it didn’t take so long thinking someone being so concerned about an animal on a property before someone reached out and said oh there are children living there too or vice versa,” Founder of the Center for Children’s Justice, Cathleen Palm said.

Two women say they learned of a link in patterns of abuse, against both people and animals, is more common than we realize. “That shows that children witnessing harm to an animal and then that impacts their understanding of violence, potentially engagement in violence,” Palm said.

A 2017 overhaul to Pennsylvania’s animal abuse statute helps define that link even more according to Pennsylvania State Director of the Humane Society of the US, Kristen Tullo said. “The most significant strengthening in our state’s history. Because an abuser will use any animals to terrorize their victim,” Tullo said.

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That’s how these women started the Keyston Link Coalition, meant to be a one-stop location for resources and education on abuse of children and animals, including how to spot them.

“There have been cases here in Central Pennsylvania, we’ve seen cases all across the Commonwealth, where you would see what was a horrible act of violence against a child. Then, as you dug deeper, you would also see that preceding that or co-occurring with that was active harm against an animal,” Palm said.

The Link is getting state recognition too. State Rep. Frank Ryan of Lebanon County is sponsoring legislation to amend the crimes code to include a definition of child torture which would include terrorizing or threatening death or harm to the child, their loved one, or their pet or an object they love, for the purpose of causing emotional harm.

Formalizing and criminalizing that link to protect those who need it most. “So when we’re talking about witnessing, leading to more heinous crimes, it’s really why it’s so important that we take animal cruelty crimes seriously,” Tullo said.

The legislation, House Bill 136 has been approved by committee but lawmakers need to update some amendments before full House approval. After that, it would go on to the Senate.

You can learn more about Keystone Link through their website here.

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