North Florida LINK Project

Using data driven research and statistics the North Florida Link Project provides free educational resources exposing the link between animal cruelty and human violence. The Link Project endeavors to inspire and empower citizens to take action resulting in the prevention of harm for a safer society.

Why is the Link important?

Social scientists and law enforcement agencies have begun to examine cruelty to animals as a serious human problem closely linked to domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse, and other violent crimes. [These efforts] cannot undo generations of abuse, but they can be an effective means of breaking the cycle of family violence from one generation to the next.” — International Association of Chiefs of Police 

National Link Coalition

Over the past 35 years, researchers and professionals in a variety of human services and animal welfare disciplines have established significant correlations between animal abuse, child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, elder abuse and other forms of violence. Mistreating animals is no longer seen as an isolated incident that can be ignored: it is often an indicator or predictor crime and a “red flag” warning sign that other family members in the household may not be safe.

We call this species-spanning interconnectedness of different forms of violence The Link. The National Link Coalition is a multi-disciplinary, collaborative initiative to increase awareness and address public policy, programs and research. We serve as the National Resource Center on The Link between Animal Abuse and Human Violence. We want to stop the cycle of violence that often affects multiple family members.

The Link Between Violence to People and Violence to Animals

In recent years there has been renewed interest in an idea dating back centuries — that acts of cruelty against animals can be a sentinel indicator – and often a predictor – of other forms of family and community violence. Research has documented relationships between childhood histories of animal cruelty and patterns of chronic interpersonal aggression. Animals often become victims in the battles of power and control  that typically mark domestic violence. Animal abuse and neglect often indicate situations of elders needing assistance. We call the areas where child maltreatment, domestic violence, elder abuse and animal cruelty intersect “The Link.”

Today, knowledge of The Link informs many aspects of family and community violence prevention. Research increasingly substantiates the interrelationships of different forms of abuse, which are often committed by the same offenders. Officials in child welfare, animal care and control, domestic violence and adult protective services are coordinating their efforts. By transcending disciplinary and institutional boundaries, collaborations ensure a more effective approach to breaking the cycles of violence and protecting all vulnerable members of society.

To join the National Link Coalition (it’s free!), to find a speaker to address your organization or to receive our monthly e-newsletter about Link activities, please contact National Link Coalition c/o Phil Arkow, Coordinator





Florida House & Senate Bills passed & signed by Governor DeSantis:

CS/HB 705: Emergency Sheltering of Persons with Pets

Emergency Sheltering of Persons with Pets; Requires DOE to assist DEM in determining strategies regarding evacuation of persons with pets; requires certain counties to designate shelter that can accommodate persons with pets; specifies requirements for such shelters.

Approved by the Governor, these provisions took effect: 7/1/2020


CS/SB 1082: Domestic Violence Injunctions

Domestic Violence Injunctions; Authorizing a court to take certain actions regarding the care, possession, or control of an animal in domestic violence injunctions, etc.

Approved by the Governor on June 18, 2020!


CS/CS/CS/SB 1414: Fish and Wildlife Activities

Prohibiting the keeping, possessing, importing, selling, bartering, trading, or breeding of certain species except for educational, research, or eradication or control purposes; including green iguanas and species of the genera Salvator and Tupinambis in such prohibition, etc.

Approved by the Governor, these provisions took effect: 7/1/2020


CS/CS/CS/SB 680: Shark Fins

Shark Fins; Citing this act as the “Kristin Jacobs Ocean Conservation Act”; prohibiting the import, export, and sale of shark fins in this state; providing exceptions; requiring the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to evaluate the potential economic impacts to the commercial shark fishing industry in this state; requiring the commission to review the potential impact on shark populations; requiring a report to the Legislature by a specified date; authorizing the Legislature to impose a ban on the domestic production of shark fins based upon the findings of the report, etc.

Approved by the Governor, these provisions took effect:: 10/1/2020


           Florida Dept. of Children & Families Report Abuse Hotline 1-800-962-2873 FL Relay 711 TTY 1-800-955-8771

Florida Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-500-1119 TDD 800 621-4202

Florida Elder Abuse 1-800-962-2873 TDD/TTY 800-453-5145

Clay Animal Care & Control 904-269-6342

Duval Animal Care & Control 904-630-CITY

Nassau Animal Services 904-530-6150

St. Johns Animal Control 904-209-6190


Advisory Board

Tara Wildes worked for over 30 years throughout the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, primarily in the correctional environment.  She retired in 2016 with the appointed rank of Director of the Department of Corrections, managing three correctional facilities and the Jacksonville Reentry Center, with over 3400 incarcerated persons, 800 employees and a budget of over 90 million dollars.  She was certified by the state of Florida in both corrections and law enforcement and continues to an instructor by the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission of Florida. Tara is currently employed as the Reentry and Mental Health Coordinator for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, a consultant on corrections issues with Wildes, Bowen & Associates and as an adjunct instructor with Florida State College at Jacksonville.  She also serves on the boards of Disability Rights Florida, NAMI Jacksonville, Prisoners of Christ and StopTB USA, representing the rights of the incarcerated population and is an advocate for criminal justice and mental health reform.


Tracy Sampson serves as the Regional Coordinator for the Florida Department of Education Office of Safe Schools serving Nassau, Baker, Duval, Union, Bradford, Clay, St. Johns, Alachua, Putnam, Flagler, Marion, Citrus, Sumter, Lake, Seminole, and Volusia Counties, as well as P.K Yonge at University of Florida and Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind. She is based in the region and travels to visit schools and district offices to provide technical assistance and training, and to verify local compliance with school safety laws. Tracy is a FortifyFL administrative user for each of the districts in her region. Prior to joining the Office of Safe Schools Tracy had 13 years' experience in Education, 2.5 years as a trainer for educators and 1.5 years as a School Safety Specialist for the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. Tracy has a B.S. in Paralegal Studies; M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction. Tracy is a certified trainer for Comprehensive Student Threat Assessment Guidelines (CSTAG) and AlerT Training (active shooter response plan).


Susan Gillespy has been in the Northeast Florida area since 1969. After attending Orange Park High School she earned a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Jacksonville University. She then furthered her education, earning her Master's degree in Counseling Psychology at the University of North Florida as well as becoming a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). Susan has extensive post-graduate training in Natural Systems Theory, one of the oldest and most respected theories in family counseling. She also specializes in Ericksonian techniques. Both schools of therapy focus on respecting the uniqueness of each individual. Susan is both a counselor and dog trainer, and completed her Master's degree in 1996 from the University of North Florida. She obtained her professional canine education at Animal Behavior College and has been training dogs in the Jacksonville area since 2010. She is a member of two professional animal trainer organizations, the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) as well as the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). She is also a Knowledge- Assessed Certified Professional Dog Trainer and credentialed by CCPDT.  Susan most recently became a Certified Force Free Trainer.



Coming Soon -  Bio Advisory Board Adult Protection



Coming Soon -  Bio Advisory Board Domestic Violence 



Kelly Anderson, Coordinator North Florida Link Project. As NFLP’s Coordinator Kelly is driven to find innovating new ways to effectively use research, data and statistics to increase awareness of the link. Throughout her career, Kelly has worked with organizations across a wide range of industries — from nonprofits like the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Changing Homelessness, to serving over 10 years in the public sector as a Registrar for the St. Johns County School District, and Marketing using data analytics in the private sector. She is a Florida native and is proud to call Mandarin home. Kelly is focused on issues that impact Floridians and as the Coordinator of the Link Project, her goal is simple - to expand community awareness and empower action that results in the prevention of abuse.





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North Florida Link Project@FLActionLink