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The treatment of animals was surveyed in 53 families in which child abuse had occurred. Patterns of pet ownership, attitudes towards pets and quality of veterinary care did not differ greatly from comparable data from the general public. However, abuse of pets by a family member had taken place in 60 percent of the families. The families in which animal abuse was indicated tended to have younger pets, lower levels of veterinary care and more conflicts over care than non-abusive families in the study. There were several parallels between the treatment of pets and the treatment of animals within child-abusing families, suggesting that animal abuse may be a potential indicator of other family problems. These findings also suggest that it may be helpful to review the role of pets in these families as part of the therapeutic process.