pets and domestic violence

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. 

Pets and Domestic Violence

Pets and Domestic Violence

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. 

You can attend the luncheon, volunteer with the Sojourner Center or donate to the organization. 

resources & help

The Sojourner Center

The National Domestic Violence Hotline

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.

can toxic mold affect my pets?

As you may know, I contribute regularly to a natural wellness blog, Hybrid Rasta Mama, where I talk about natural pet health. The blog's author, Jennifer, and her family have been going through hell as a result of discovering toxic mold in their home. They learned that their persistent health problems were almost all caused by mold present in their walls. They moved from California to Arizona, and I had the opportunity to spend time with them and learn about their situation, which is nothing short of hellish. Not only did they have to abandon their home, but they had to get rid of all possessions. They are on a long, hard road to physical and emotional recovery. Naturally, the health and well-being of their pets has been a chief concern. Just a few years ago, it was thought that toxic mold did not have an affect on pets, but we now know that it does. Toxic mold can cause terrible health problems for animals in the household, even more so that for humans, depending on the specific case.

Jennifer's family includes multiple cats and a rabbit who are now all safely out of the home and on the road to recovery. They got lucky.

discovering that toxic mold is a health risk for pets

It was a 2007 press release from the American Veterinary Medical Association that really brought the effect of toxic mold on pets to light. Douglas Mader, a Florida veterinarian, was performing a dental procedure on two sibling cats. Soon after beginning the procedure, he noticed frothy blood in the anesthesia tubes. Alarmed, he stopped the procedure. Sadly, the cats both passed away within two days, and blood samples indicated that there was black mold in their lung capillaries. A hemorrhage exacerbated by the procedure was the cause of death. The cats showed no prior symptoms, and the family only discovered after the cats' blood test that there was mold in their home. 

symptoms of toxic mold exposure in pets

People discover that they have been exposed to toxic mold in a variety of ways. Sometimes they develop health problems that lead to the discovery, sometimes they physically see the mold in their homes, and sometimes the family pet falls ill. Prior to the 2007 press release, pets' symptoms were often attributed to other ailments. The following is a list of the most common symptoms pets exhibit when exposed to toxic mold:

severe scratching and chewing when fleas or other pests are not present


runny nose

runny eyes. wheezing


nose bleeds

change in eating habits

It's easy to see why these symptoms were often assigned causes other than toxic mold exposure. They are common to a wide array of health problems that can affect our pets. The severity of the symptoms depends on a number of factors, including the severity of the mold issue and the type, size, and general health of the pet. Sometimes symptoms are so mild that they go unnoticed, and sometimes they lead to death even before the source of the problem is discovered.

why is toxic mold so dangerous to my pet?

Respiratory problems are the most common health issues pets develop as a result of toxic mold exposure. They are also the most concerning. When mold is inhaled by your pet, capillaries in the lungs are weakened by the mold spores. Over time, the capillaries can rupture and hemorrhage. If left untreated, this condition will eventually lead to death. These issues typically progress faster in animals than in humans due to their smaller size.

what to do if you suspect your pet may be suffering symptoms due to toxic mold exposure

If you've been following Jennifer's "molaggedon," you already know that toxic mold exposure is no joke. It's better to be safe than sorry. If you suspect your pet has been exposed to toxic mold, take all pets in the household to the veterinarian as soon as possible, even if they are not exhibiting symptoms. It is common in multi-pet households that one pet will display symptoms before the others. Typically smaller animals are more quickly and severely affected. 

If the veterinarian determines that your pet is suffering as a result of toxic mold exposure, do not bring your pets back to your home where the mold exists. You may need to board them or find a family member or friend who is willing to take them in while you eliminate the mold problem, a lengthy process.

The veterinarian may prescribe medications to help your pet's symptoms and may also suggest that your pet take an antibiotic to prevent or treat a secondary condition that may occur as a result of your pet's weakened system.

If your pet will be temporarily staying in a home where there are other pets, it is important to verify with your veterinarian that all of the pet's symptoms are attributed to toxic mold exposure and not another underlying condition. While health issues from mold exposure are NOT contagious, other conditions with the same symptoms may be. In order to protect all of the animals in the house your pet will be staying, make sure the animal is in good health, otherwise.

the bottom line

If you suspect your pet has been exposed to toxic mold, don't hesitate to seek veterinary assistance. You may safe your pet's life, and your own. 

Are you a pet parent who has dealt with toxic mold? Please share your story.


Beware: Toxic Mold and Pets, Pets and Mold, New Findings Show Toxic Mold May Affect Dogs

This article, written by me, originally appeared on Hybrid Rasta Mama and has been reposted here with minor changes with permission.

will your pet be safe if a natural disaster strikes? #NatlPrep #giveaway

This weekend marks the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I can't believe it's been that long. Hitting the Atlantic coast and costing over 1,800 lives, it was one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States. Families with pets faced torturous decisions, as no provisions had been made for pets in such a disaster. Many people were forced to leave their pets behind, which was a huge emotional blow in such a time of crisis, not to mention the health and safety risks the situation posed to the pets. Some people refused to evacuate without their pets, which further complicated rescue efforts. In all, over 600,000 pets died or found themselves homeless, and almost half (44%) of people who refused to evacuate said they did not leave because they were not allowed to bring their pets. 

Will your pet be safe if a natural disaster strikes?

Will your pet be safe if a natural disaster strikes?


Hurricane Katrina was the catalyst for the PETS Act–the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act. The act had bipartisan support in both houses, and the legislation passed quickly through Congress and was signed into law in October 2006. It ensures that state and local emergency planning addresses the needs of households with pets.

our hurricane katrina rescue dog

In addition to the lives lost and families displaced by Hurricane Katrina, many animals found themselves astray. The stray animal population was too much for the Gulf Coast area to handle, especially as they began a long process toward recovery, so animals were sent to shelters and rescue groups all over the United States in hopes that by dispersing the stray population, more animals would find homes. Our dog, N.A.S.H.A. was one of those dogs. 

Our dog, N.A.S.H.A., is a Hurricane Katrina rescue.

Our dog, N.A.S.H.A., is a Hurricane Katrina rescue.

We adopted N.A.S.H.A. in September of 2005 when she was just a pup. She was with a rescue group that had taken on a large number of strays left homeless in the wake of the hurricane. My step-son, B, and I walked past her crate, and she went nuts. We watched from afar as others passed her crate and noticed that she only got excited when we walked by. B asked if we could take her out and hold her. That's when I knew we were in trouble. We weren't even thinking of adding another dog to the family. She chose us, and we couldn't deny her. 

do you have a plan in place for your pets if disaster strikes?

Thanks in big part to the PETS Act, our animal companions are now being considered when disaster strikes, but many of us don't have a emergency plan for our pets. Whether you live in a place where a hurricane or tornado could strike, you live in earthquake country, or you live in a place that could flood in a matter of moments during monsoon season (that's us), it's important to have a solid plan in place for your pets. 

We're working with the ASPCA to help spread the word about disaster preparedness for families with pets. They have created a handy infographic to break down the most important things to consider:

september is national preparedness month–take the pledge and enter to win a disaster preparedness pack

September is national preparedness month. Are you prepared to take care of your pets in a natural disaster? Are our pets safer than they were ten years ago when Hurricane Katrina struck? Join me in taking the pledge to prepare for your pets in the event of an emergency by clicking here.

Enter to win this ASPCA Disaster Preparedness Pack.

Enter to win this ASPCA Disaster Preparedness Pack.

The ASPCA has generously offered to give a Disaster Preparedness Pack to one of our readers! The pack includes:

• emergency ready pet first aid kit

• Subaru roll-up picnic blanket

• Subaru penguin umbrella

With this pack, there's no excuse not to be prepared.

Have you and your pets been through a natural disaster? Are you prepared to care for your pets in the event of an emergency? Please tell us about it.

summer reptile adventures teach kids about #ReptileCare

Since summer is my busiest time as a pet sitter, our family typically stays close to home. With temps reaching 110°-plus, we are either in a pool or seeking out indoor activities to have some fun in-between pet sitting visits. We are fortunate that the Phoenix Public Library offers fabulous free programs and guest speakers, especially during the summer. One of our favorites each year is Rich Isle's Reptile Adventures.

Summer reptile adventures teach kids about #ReptileCare.

Summer reptile adventures teach kids about #ReptileCare.

Rich, "the Reptile Man," has been obsessed with reptiles since he was a young boy, and he's become an expert, sharing his knowledge and his exotic reptiles with the public, touring all over the Phoenix Valley. He has had a personal collection of live reptiles for over 40 years. He tells his audience of youngsters that if they are interested in something, they should study and read all about it so that they can become experts, too (after homework, of course). He shares his passion with others.

Rich brings the live reptiles through the audience so kids can see them up close. He teaches about their characteristics, environment in the wild, their diet, defense mechanisms, and life cycles. Aside from getting to see some really awesome reptiles, the kids walk away with a broader knowledge and greater respect for these often-mysterious creatures. He lets the kids know which ones make great starter pets and which ones are better left to the experienced reptile wranglers. 

Check out some of the cool creatures we got to see!

Sunset, a bearded dragon from Australia.

Sunset, a bearded dragon from Australia.

Slim, a blue-tongued skink.

Slim, a blue-tongued skink.

Amarilla, an albino green iguana. She's only four, but when she grows up she'll be six feet long!

Amarilla, an albino green iguana. She's only four, but when she grows up she'll be six feet long!

Pumpkin, a Tangerine Milk Snake. She'll grow to be seven feet long.

Pumpkin, a Tangerine Milk Snake. She'll grow to be seven feet long.

A piebald (she has random patches of white) Ball Python.

A piebald (she has random patches of white) Ball Python.

T-Bo, a 26-year-old Rhinoceros Iguana.

T-Bo, a 26-year-old Rhinoceros Iguana.

Theresa, a 9-year-old Python. She's only half grown, and that's only about half of her!

Theresa, a 9-year-old Python. She's only half grown, and that's only about half of her!

The kids got to pet Theresa. 

The kids got to pet Theresa. 

I feel so lucky that my children and I get to experience these amazing creatures up close. What a rare opportunity and amazing hands-on learning experience. Rich is a big personality and keeps the kids really engaged, as if the reptiles aren't enough to do so.

Though we have a Sulcata Tortoise, my kids often talk about adopting another reptile, which I'm not opposed to, but we don't take adding a family member to our household lightly, so it may be a while. We'll have to do some more thorough research so we don't end up with a sixty-foot snake by accident. When we do decide to adopt one, I'll be sure to consult Rich before we do.

Do you have a reptile? Tell us about it!


how to tell if your child is ready for a pet

the importance of a consultation with your new pet sitter

I have been a full-time professional pet sitter for over ten years, and, in that time, I've met with a wide variety of pet parents. Some will write me a detailed novel about every intricacy involved in the care of their animals, and others have a "just do your thing," attitude. I appreciate and accommodate each of my clients so that they are comfortable, but one thing holds true for all of them: I require a consultation for all new clients. 

The importance of a consultation with your new pet sitter. 

The importance of a consultation with your new pet sitter. 

I recently earned the business of a new client that I wasn't so sure about at first. The pet parent initially contacted me via text and let me know that she didn't think a consult would be necessary...that I should just show up for the first visit. I politely explained that I require a consultation for all new clients, and she agreed to meet with me. 

During our meeting, I very much enjoyed my conversation with her and immediately fell in love with her pooch. About halfway through our consult, she said "wow, this is really impressive. I've never had a pet sitter ask all of these questions before." Perhaps that's why I'm the third pet sitter she's tried in recent months. I hope to be the last. So far so good! 

topics i cover during the initial consultation

 All those questions...what do I ask about during the initial consultation?

• about the humans: contact information, travel itinerary, emergency contacts, etc.

• all about each pet: health history, medications, personality, behavior, exercise, routine, diet, likes and dislikes, etc.

• vet information and permission to seek care: I ask for the established/preferred vet and ask my clients to sign a release granting me permission to seek veterinary care for their animals while they travel.

• about the home: security, others with access, where cleaning supplies are (for pet accidents), where are pet supplies located, do plants need to be watered, lights rotated, window dressings open/closed?

• the grand tour: I ask that my clients show me around the areas of the home where the pet(s) will have access, and inform them of my policy to do a sweep of that area (I never open closed doors).

• photography/social media release: I ask (and have the client sign a release) if I may take pictures of the pets during my visit and use them in my blog and social media. (For security purposes, I never post any identifying information about the pet or the client.)

• terms and conditions: I ask that my clients review and sign terms and conditions, which protects both of parties, legally.

beyond all the questions

Aside from all of the detailed information I request, the consultation, which usually lasts about 45-60 minutes, is a great opportunity for the family to get to know me, and for me to get to know them. Why is this important?

• I want them to feel comfortable with me. Though this is a business, I am entering their home and caring for their beloved furry family members, which is quite personal. The initial consultation is a great way to start building trust with a new client.

• Before I accept a new client, I want to be sure that I am comfortable in their home and with their pets, as well as with the requirements of the job. 

• I can see where things are and what needs to be done and have the opportunity to take notes and ask additional questions based on the client's needs and environment.

• If I have any concerns or questions, they can be addressed before they are traveling and have limited ability to help me.

• The animals get to meet me before I care for them in their humans' absence. It's important to build trust with the pets as well as the humans.

• I get a signature on all forms, protecting both parties.

• I receive a key in a secure way (no leaving it under the mat).

after the initial consultation

After the initial consultation, sometimes I never see the humans again. We keep in close communication via phone, text, and email, and I ask that they update me on any changes with their pets or their home. When they adopt a new pet, I typically ask to drop by and meet the new addition (unless it's a fish or don't really care who feeds them).

I find that establishing a connection in person is beneficial for both parties. Though I have a professional relationship with my clients, we also have a personal tie due to the intimate nature of my work. Plus, my clients love to see their pets grace my Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram feeds while they are away.  

An initial consultation is important for both the pet parents and the pet sitter. Do you have a pet sitter? Did he or she require an initial consultation?


pet sitter travels in unmarked car

the value-added services of a pet sitter

the importance of integrity in professional pet sitting

pet sitting vs. professional pet sitting