UKUNAKEKELA Child & Animal Early Intervention Programme
(Ukunakekela = To care for..)
We are very excited about this initiative, as it has already proven to be effective in creating animal ambassadors who educate the community on the basic needs of animals. Our programme teaches and encourages love and respect in children for animals.
We are also focusing on the Early Intervention aspect, due to the indisputable tie between animal abuse and violence towards people, particularly within the family, which is becoming increasingly apparent.
In other countries animal welfare, law enforcement, domestic violence and child welfare agencies are working together more and more in recognition of “the Link” between animal and child abuse. Researchers have recognized and documented that violence towards animals can be both a component and a symptom of child, spousal and elder abuse.
American researchers studied 53 families who met the legal criteria for child abuse and neglect. 60% of these families abused or neglected companion animals.
In 88% of the families where there was physical abuse of the children, there was animal abuse.
In a Canadian study, 56% of pet-owning women seeking refuge in women’s shelters reported that their abuser had threatened or had harmed their pet.
Of those women with children and pets, 65% believed the children were aware of the abuse, and impacted by it.
This study, and others from the domestic violence field, consistently show that women delay leaving abusive situations because of fears for a pet’s safety. Many women’s shelters have arrangements with local animal shelters or veterinary hospitals to provide temporary housing for their pets.
Violence towards family pets is one way that abusers exert power and control over their other victims, who may be children, spouses, or elders.
- Threatening or hurting the pet may be used as a warning. “Next time it could be you.”
- Threats may be used as leverage. Fear for the pet keeps family members (spouse, child or elder) from disclosing the abuse and exposing the abuser.
- Forcing the victim to witness cruelty to their pet is emotional abuse.
- Children who hurt animals may be acting out of their own experience, ie: what they observe, or what they undergo themselves, at home.
One of the main aims of this project is to teach children empathy and compassion.
It is believed that if a child doesn’t have an attachment figure – like a parent – their personality will not develop the empathy aspect. If you can relate to the “Other” (when you realize it has its own feelings and there is a level of caring – you realize it is not an object, [to be used in dog fights, for instance]) you choose not to hurt something close to you, because you value it, not because you fear punishment.
Lack of attachment can cause a child to become either an abuser or a victim. Bullying is the first sign of a potential abuser/victim scenario. Many victims can become bullies.
If you have empathy, you can develop relationships. If you can develop relationships, you can care for someone or something. If you don’t have empathy chances of developing a personality disorder increase; sociopathic, narcissistic, psychopathic – and these conditions don’t benefit from psychotherapy. They can be managed, but not cured.
Hence the Early Intervention aspect:
WMACA focus on how the relationships between humans and animals benefit each other, how the basic human needs for belonging and caring are met, and how the animal’s welfare depends on this symbiosis.
We teach the “Privilege of Stewardship”… man was given dominion over the world – not to rape and pillage – but to take care of something that is dependent on you, and taking responsibility for it. Within this stream of education we provide Life Skills messages to the children, which will connect to parenting and eventually link up with the Sexual Health and Teen pregnancy Prevention Programme we’ll be rolling out.
We also want to bring in rangers to talk about wild animals, Veterinarians and K-9 units – not only to impart education and awareness, but which could be effective towards career guidance too – to demonstrate the wide range of options available to children who may like to work with animals when they grow up.