I hope you’re enjoying your summer.
This week I’d like to discuss the role pets play in domestic violence relationships. A pet is just like a member of the family and we want our pets to be well cared for and safe.
There are frightening statistics concerning pets and households that experience abuse. An abuser can harm the animal just like he harms the other members of the family. He can also threaten or harm the pet to coerce the victim to stay, for retaliation of leaving, and/or to remain silent about the abuse. The impact of the fear for harming the pet compels the victim to do what the abuser says. One study found that 87% of batterer-perpetrated incidents of pet abuse are committed in the presence of their partners for the purpose of revenge or control. 1
Many domestic violence shelters are not equipped to take in animals. Only 12% of domestic violence programs can provide shelter for pets and 24% provide referral services to local animal welfare organizations. 2 The number of shelters allowing pets is growing as this problem is being addressed. Up to 40% of domestic violence victims are unable to escape their abusers because they are concerned about what will happen to their pets when they leave. 3 This is a large number of victims that are left in dangerous relationships and many of these victims have children.
What can we do to help a victim with this problem? If she cannot take the pet into the shelter and won’t leave her abuser with the pet, we can reach out and help her. There are several options we can provide. We could take in the animal and provide temporary housing. Also, we could find a friend who would care for the pet. There are foster pet-parents available that will take in the pet so it is safe. We can help by calling animal shelters and getting information. We could talk to a kennel and see what they can do for a victim and, if needed, pay for some of the costs. It is so important to get the victim in a safe shelter and helping take care of the pet might be the catalyst for her to get help.
This topic is often overlooked when trying to understand why women stay. It’s a problem that needs to be addressed. Remember, if we can help just one victim, we’ve done our job.
Have a great week!
Important Phone Numbers:
National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-SAFE
American Humane Association 303-792-9900
- Quinlisk, J.A. (1999). Animal Abuse and Family Violence. In, Ascione, F.R. Arkow, P., eds,: Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, and Animal Abuse: Linking the Circles of Compassion for Prevention and Intervention. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, pp. 168-175.
- NCADV National Directory of Domestic Violence Programs, 2004
- Arkow, P. (1994). Animal abuse and Domestic Violence: Intake statistics tell a sad story. Latham Letter 15(2), 17.