October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month.
There are a lot of reasons an abuse victim remains in a violent relationship. Want to know the reason up to half of battered women interviewed give for not leaving their violent partner?
Fear of what would happen to their pet(s) if they fled, leaving the pet behind.
The fear is not unfounded.
It turns out, people aren’t the only victims of domestic violence. Household pets are injured by the abuser as well. One study in the state of Wisconsin indicated nearly 70 percent of the abuse victims interviewed stated their partner had hurt or killed a pet or livestock, and three-quarters of the incidents occurred in front of the victims or their children as a control tactic.
According to Alaska Friends of Pets board member Ruth Quinlan, her agency was recently contacted by a victim who would not leave her abuser until her 3 cats could be safe. A pet foster home was secured through their Safe Haven program before the victim went to the local shelter. After she secured safe housing, the woman and her cats were reunited.
At a interdisciplinary work group, I heard a police officer talk about a German shepherd who was missing more teeth each time the officer was called to the home to respond to a domestic disturbance. No one admitted to violence in the home, and subsequently no arrests could be made without obvious injuries or other evidence. The calls kept coming in until finally the victim was ready to talk. By then, the shepherd
was nearly toothless.
But there is hope.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is working to train district attorneys and veterinarians so that animal abuse can be prosecuted vigorously. They can also refer abuse victims to resources in their area that can assist in the domestic violence crisis.
Programs like Friends of Pets Safe Haven Program in Anchorage or Friends of Animals in Utah exist in many states.
How you can help
Report animal abuse when you see it. According to Ruth, who ran a battered women’s shelter in the past, animal abuse can be an indicator of domestic abuse towards the rest of the family. Look at the ASPCA’s website for guidelines on how.
Donate to your local nonprofit that deals with animal abuse. In Alaska, it’s Friends of Pets.
You can specify that your donation goes to the Safe Haven Rescue portion of the Friends of Pets program.
Support your local ASPCA. Shop at their thrift stores if one’s available. The ASPCA has more than 100 years of protecting animals from harm nationally.
Family violence is rampant in our country. Let us not forget to help those who have no power to make it stop.
(The animals in this post are models only, and yes, the camera makes them look heavier than they really are. No real foster animals were filmed in order that victim confidentiality be maintained.)
ASPCA Government Relations Department
Email contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Email contact: email@example.com
National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence
National Network to End Domestic Violence
Office on Violence against Women
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