An open letter to Kismutt Rescue from Autistic adults in London Ontario:

Content Note: This post contains references to animal abuse, ableism, discrimination, and extreme dehumanization. In addition we have been informed that Kismutt Rescue has doubled down on their prejudiced comments, so a warning if you do take a look at their original posts, their page includes significant ableist and dehumanizing language and false information.

Dear Kismutt Rescue in response to recent social media posts that you have made,

London Autistics Standing Together is a peer-support and mutual aid network for Autistic Adults living in London Ontario and the surrounding areas. We strongly condemn the recent social media posts and discriminatory practices which you have been promoting.

In your posts you describe two incidents of serious animal abuse. Our members and executive council share your horror at how the dogs you describe were treated. However, we would like to point out that violent behaviour is not caused by a diagnosis of Autism, and that labelling all Autistic people as inherently violent and incapable of becoming responsible pet parents is deeply discriminatory and harmful.

Peer-reviewed research has repeatedly shown that there is no causal link between Autism and violent behaviour. When some Autistic individuals behave aggressively this is most often linked to additional external and internal factors such as experiences with physical or sexual abuse, previous head injury, other co-occurring medical or psychiatric conditions, and/or lack of access to adequate communication and other supports.

At the end of the day what happened to the dogs was terrible, but similar violent incidents are just as possible with non-Autistic people. All families looking to adopt an animal should be adequately vetted. Children regardless of the presence or absence of a diagnosis should not be left unsupervised with dogs, particularly when introducing a new dog to a household.

Placing rescue animals is difficult. We are not suggesting that all Autistic people should adopt an animal, much less an animal with complex needs. With any placement the needs of the animal and the needs of the family need to be taken into consideration, and this may mean that some families are not an appropriate fit for a rescue animal. The presence or absence of a diagnosis, in and of itself, will not tell you anything about whether or not a person will be able to care for an animal in the way that animal deserves. Placing a blanket ban on Autistic people adopting animals makes about as much sense as placing a blanket ban on any other group where some individuals in that group have behaved abusively. I doubt you would ban men from adopting animals because some men have abused animals. Such a ban would be absurd, because you understand that men are not a monolith, they are a group of people with all the diversity and complexity that any group of people contain. Autistic people, like any other group, are not a monolith.

By banning Autistic people from pet adoption you are excluding many people who could provide wonderful and loving homes simply because they share a diagnostic label with individuals who have exhibited violent behaviour. You are also deflecting blame for violent behaviours onto a diagnosis and away from individual, environmental, and structural factors which create such situations. In doing so you ignore the reality that neurotypical families can also contain violence. Scapegoating Autism and Autistic people will not address the real problems of animal abuse.

There is no evidence that Autistic individuals are more likely to behave abusively towards either animals or humans. Speaking from the experience of our members, many Autistic people experience a deep connection and empathy with animals. Some find animals easier to read than humans. Many of us are devoted to our beloved pets, spending extensive time and research ensuring that they have the best care and environment.

There is ample peer reviewed evidence that Autistic people are overwhelmingly more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators. When you paint all Autistic people as violent you are directly contributing to the stigmatization of an already marginalized group. You, through your words and inaccurate characterization, are contributing to a societal atmosphere in which violence towards Autistic people is seen as excusable; in which we are seen as less than human.

We call on you to publicly retract your blatantly false claim that 99% of Autistic people have violent outbursts, and to educate yourself about the realities of Autistic people and our experiences. We call on you to put in the work to thoroughly vet all potential adopting families, regardless of diagnosis, rather than relying on a misleading and discriminatory ban on Autistic pet adoption. We are calling on you to see as human beings and not as stereotypes, and to do the right thing and attempt to use your platform to undo some of the harm you have already caused to our community.

Sincerely,

The members and executive council of London Autistics Standing Together

Sources:

Angermeyer, M. C., and H. Matschinger
2003The Stigma of Mental Illness: Effects of Labelling on Public Attitudes towards People with Mental Disorder. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 108(4): 304–309. 10.1034/j.1600-0447.2003.00150.x, accessed March 26, 2022.

Brewer, Neil, Jordana Zoanetti, and Robyn L Young
2017The Influence of Media Suggestions about Links between Criminality and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism 21(1): 117–121. 10.1177/1362361316632097, accessed March 26, 2022.

Dosch, Rebecca
2019Resisting Normal: Questioning Media Depictions of Autistic Youth and Their Families 21(1): 150–157. 10.16993/sjdr.56, accessed March 26, 2022.

Gibbs, Vicki, Jennie Hudson, Ye In (Jane) Hwang, et al.
2021Experiences of Physical and Sexual Violence as Reported by Autistic Adults without Intellectual Disability: Rate, Gender Patterns and Clinical Correlates. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders 89: 101866. 10.1016/j.rasd.2021.101866, accessed March 26, 2022.

Hippler, Kathrin, Essi Viding, Christian Klicpera, and Francesca Happé
2010Brief Report: No Increase in Criminal Convictions in Hans Asperger’s Original Cohort. J Autism Dev Disord 40(6): 774–780. 10.1007/s10803-009-0917-y, accessed March 26, 2022.

King, Claire, and Glynis H. Murphy
2014A Systematic Review of People with Autism Spectrum Disorder and the Criminal Justice System. J Autism Dev Disord 44(11): 2717–2733. 10.1007/s10803-014-2046-5, accessed March 26, 2022.

Lundström, Sebastian, Mats Forsman, Henrik Larsson, et al.
2014Childhood Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Violent Criminality: A Sibling Control Study. J Autism Dev Disord 44(11): 2707–2716. 10.1007/s10803-013-1873-0, accessed March 26, 2022.

Maras, Katie, Sue Mulcahy, and Laura Crane
2015Is Autism Linked to Criminality? Autism 19(5): 515–516. 10.1177/1362361315583411, accessed March 26, 2022.

McGuire, Anne
2016War on Autism. University of Michigan Press.

Mouridsen, Svend Erik, Bente Rich, Torben Isager, and Niels Jørgen Nedergaard
2008Pervasive Developmental Disorders and Criminal Behaviour. Int J Offender Ther Comp Criminol 52(2): 196–205. 10.1177/0306624×07302056, accessed March 26, 2022.

Palermo, Mark T., and Stefan Bogaerts
2015The Dangers of Posthumous Diagnoses and the Unintended Consequences of Facile Associations. Int J Offender Ther Comp Criminol 59(14): 1564–1579. 10.1177/0306624×14550642, accessed March 26, 2022.

Woodbury-Smith, M. R., I. C. H. Clare, A. J. Holland, and A. Kearns
2006High Functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorders, Offending and Other Law-Breaking: Findings from a Community Sample. Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology 17(1): 108–120. 10.1080/14789940600589464, accessed March 26, 2022.

3 Comments

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s