Did you know that a large majority of victims of domestic violence hesitate to leave their situation out of concern for their pets? There is a strong link between domestic violence and animal abuse, and offenders of domestic violence typically abuse all members of the household, including pets. Since many shelters do not accept pets, it can be a gut-wrenching decision for victims to leave their pets behind with their abuser.
the impact of pets in domestic violence situations
Since the link between animal abuse and domestic violence is so strong, it is likely that a perpetrator of domestic violence will also abuse the animals in the home. According to animal advocacy group RedRover, most animal abuse occurs in the presence of human victims in the home in order to psychologically control or coerce them. Threats against household pets can be powerful in controlling victims and keeping them quiet about the abusive situation.
In a violent home, pets may suffer injuries, health problems, permanent disabilities, or may disappear from the home entirely or be killed.
Here are some interesting statistics from the American Humane Association:
• 71% of pet-owning women entering women's shelters reported that their batterer had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control victims.
• 68% of battered women reported violence toward their animals. 87% of these incidents occurred in the presence of the women and 75% in the presence of the children.
• 13% of intentional animal abuse cases involve domestic violence.
• Between 25% and 40% of battered women are unable to escape abusive situations because they worry about what will happen to their pets should they leave.
• For many battered women, pets are sources of comfort, providing strong emotional support: 98% of Americans consider pets to be companions or members of the family.
• A child growing up in the U.S. is more likely to have a pet than a live-at-home-father.
• Battered women have been known to live in their cars with their pets for as long as four months until an opening was available at a pet-friendly safe house.
the link between domestic violence and animal abuse
According to the ASPCA, and other resources, there is a strong link between domestic violence and animal abuse. In fact, a history of pet abuse is one of the top four indicators of risk for being a perpetrator of domestic violence. Those who abuse animals are typically more dangerous, violent and controlling than those who do not. Since so many women (though men can also be victims of domestic violence, it is most often women and children who are at risk) delay leaving an abusive situation out of concern for the pets in the household, it is vitally important that we provide resources for families with pets.
In addition, the ASPCA cites other shocking facts about animal abuse and domestic violence. Children exposed to domestic violence are three times more likely to be cruel to animals, which seems to perpetuate the cycle of abuse. Interestingly, the Chicago Police Department found that 30% of people arrested for animal abuse had domestic violence charges already on record.
why do abusers batter animals?
According to the ASPCA, there are several reasons abusers batter animals:
• to demonstrate power and control over the family
• to isolate the victim and children
• to enforce submission
• to perpetuate an environment of fear
• to prevent the victim from leaving or coerce her to return
• to punish for leaving or showing independence
what can you do?
What got me thinking about all of this? I was listening to The Mathew Blades Morning Show here in Phoenix the other day, and I heard him talking about his support of the Sojourner Center. He announced that he will be the emcee of their upcoming 14th Annual Hope Luncheon on October 29th.
Blades spoke about how the Sojourner Center supports women with pets by allowing them to stay together. The victims of domestic violence can bring their pets with them to the shelter, which can provide safety for the pets and comfort and peace of mind to the women and children seeking refuge from their abusive situation.
resources & help
RedRover–bringing animals from crisis to care
Safe Place for Pets–a RedRover project with the National Link Coalition and Sheltering Animals and Families Together
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please seek help.