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  • Jan
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Cats and Dogs: The Other Victims of Domestic Violence

Posted by at 5:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

dvdogUnfortunately, violence-be it child abuse or neglect, spousal abuse, elder abuse, abuse of the mentally disabled, hate crimes, school bullying, or vandalism-is becoming an ever-increasing part of every society. Cruelty to animals may not be talked about as much as other forms of violence, but it is nevertheless present everywhere.

The abuse of animals can be a sign of serious psychosocial problems. Statistics show that almost half of the women seeking orders of protection from violent partners have had an animal companion who was threatened or killed. Often, this is because the victim’s partner is attempting to control her, to keep her from leaving, or to force her to return. Companion animals are just as vulnerable as children when it comes to violence.

The most legendary criminals of our times-such as the Columbine school shooters, Jeffrey Dahlmer, Kip Kinkel, and others-all have one thing in common: They started their criminal “careers” by targeting and “practicing” on animals.

When a woman goes into a battered-women’s shelter, she frequently takes her children with her but finds that her animal companions are not welcome. This has long been a source of frustration for domestic-violence workers and the clients they seek to serve. Studies show that only 28 percent of domestic violence agencies that assist women ask about animal companions. Random, informal surveys of shelters around the country have shown that there are many women who call battered-women’s shelter hotlines but delay going into the shelter because they’re reluctant to leave their animal companions behind with the abuser, where they are at risk. Animal companions frequently offer solace, comfort, and affection at a time when frightened women and children need them the most. This is not the time to separate them, leaving the animals to face an uncertain future.

You can help some of these victims. In our county, for example, we set up a program called “Friends in Need.” This is a project that seeks to put an end to the domestic abuse problem, at least where animals are concerned. It provides a temporary safety net for animals while a victim of domestic abuse gets herself together and finds a more permanent solution. Several national organizations have begun looking at this issue and creating programs to help local activists start their own small programs. They have met with great enthusiasm and have been very successful, and there is no doubt that the program would be greatly appreciated and celebrated in your area as well. With the help of the community, you can set up a similar program. So what do you need to do, as a concerned member of the community, to get a project like this in place and available to women in need?

One of the best things that you can do is to offer to foster animals. Providing foster homes for the animal companions of victims of domestic violence helps both the animals and the human victims. If people suffering in violent situations knew that their animal companions would be safe and cared for, more would seek help.

Local rescue groups and animal shelters are the best place to start. Talk with them to see what types of foster programs they have in place and then volunteer. If they don’t have a program in place to partner with domestic-violence shelters, offer to work with them to help start one. Local groomers and other animal professionals as well as civic groups, such as the Girl Scouts and church groups, may be willing to hold food and toy drives. You will find that once people learn what you are doing, putting together a network of foster homes for this purpose is not so hard.

Established animal shelters and rescue groups have veterinarians who can provide basic physical exams, including deworming, initial vaccinations, and flea and tick treatment to ensure that animals are not introducing anything communicable into the foster parent’s home. You can also work with the animal shelter to see what type of monetary donations can be collected to pay for the necessary supplies for the program, including cat carriers, cat scratching posts, catnip, dog and cat food, cat litter, litterboxes, beds, toys, treats, medical care, leashes, collars, and harnesses.

This is not a difficult thing to do, and it is very rewarding. Just remember: Don’t get overwhelmed, and every little bit helps. Many animal shelters and rescue groups are waiting for volunteers to help out. All you have to do is ask.

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  • Heather Hayes says:

    I am living in Northern Ireland and domestic violence is all over here mainly due to alcohol abuse. There is nowhere for pets to go if their owner finds the courage to leave with her children. Dear only knows what happens to the poor things if they are left behind. Many just get turned out on the streets to fend for themselves or tied up outside animal shelters in the hope that someone else may give them a home. Lots never get homes because of their strange behavioural problems and many people don’t have the money, time or patience to work with such animals so they spend their last days closed in a shelter. At least they are not being abused…

  • lynne says:

    Hi helhen,
    Sadly, l believe and agree with every word you say, that the problem of abuse of the vunerable, being children, animals, old people, handicapped, is rampant and increasing, l speak of the uk, not sure if your uk or usa, but think it will be happening in many countries. l knew a young girl with the problem and symptoms you mention, to many people they appear innocent and appealing, many try to help them, whilst being deceived, manipulated, no genuine feelings or conscience, animals are used, abused and disposed of, as would be vunerable people if they didnt fear the law punishing them, sometimes they dont. Then the desensitised, cruel people who take out thier frustrations, anger, on the easy targets, animals and children in their own homes. l adopted an 8yr old dog from a shelter, he`d been handed in, not even a prosecution case, yet he`s terrified of so many things, all types of objects, from a plate to a vac, carrier bags, hose pipe, sprays, an endless list of household items terrify him, as do any loud noises, sudden movements, he races up to lay on my bed, his refuge, where he goes as soon as l get ready to go out, even talk on phone, he craves chocolate and sweets, yet took two weeks to enjoy dog food, he doesnt like young males, will bark at people at the door, but would bolt if they came towards him, he wont be tied up anywhere, re no trips to shops for him.
    What sort of a life can he have had for 8yrs.
    He loves to run free, in circles like a mad creature, he`s smart, obediant, loyal, and affectionate to me, and anyone who shows him affection.
    Following my diagnosis of cancer near 3yr ago, he`s been my greatest support, company, friend, always waiting when l come home, there for me when no one else is, as is true of all our loyal friends. l hope the time comes when they can go with their owners to shelters, they deserve it.

  • sheila says:

    i love this site.you guys do much good . i have a stray lad/pit mix .she is 11 mths old . i have tooken her in every since she was 8 wks . she got hit by neighbors car . my brother said it was her groth plate messed up on front leg . i see her suffer cos her leg swells and she limps on it . ive done everything i can to comfort her . she has had her shots and neautered . im without job , no money , . do you know of any one that could help to see if something can be done to help her . their should be vets willing to help for free if you cant afford it . i have 3 other dogs beside her . ,

  • Shelly says:

    “Pets in Domestic Violence Protective Order Laws” This is where a victims pet(s) can be listed in the protective orders. Not all states have one and many lawyers and victims do not know this is an option. Also there are a few animal rescue groups that train shelter dogs to be companions for domestic violence victims. The security and love of a dog is priceless.

  • Helen Tanguis says:

    If it is any consulation, these people are very unhappy and unloved people. They treat everyone and every living creature they come in contact this way, whether at work or even total strangers. This is not say that they deserve to be allowed to continue this behavior or to be ignored because they have social problems relating to dealing with other people. The abuse and neglect of innocent animals, children and senior citizens is rampant in this country, in my opinion. It is ignored by parents and other people in power, such as the court system. Parents enable their own children by not seeking professional help when the early signs present themselves. Instead their children are allowed to kill cats and dogs and bury them in their own backyards. If you don’t believe me, all you have to do is visit any website about the background/behaviors of anti-social.

    Antisocial personality disorder
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Jump to: navigation, search
    Antisocial personality disorder (APD) is a personality disorder It is defined by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual: “The essential feature for the diagnosis is a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood.”[1] Deceit and manipulation are considered essential features of the disorder. Therefore, it is essential in making the diagnosis to collect material from sources other than the individual being diagnosed. Also, the individual must be age 18 or older as well as have a documented history of a conduct disorder before the age of 15.[1]People having antisocial personality disorder are sometimes referred to as “sociopaths” and “psychopaths”, although some researchers believe that Psychopathy/Sociopathy are not synonymous with APD.[2] It is not to be confused with Avoidant Personality Disorder, which more accurately describes people colloquially referred to as “anti-social”.

    serial killers, not that every abuser is a serial killer, but what kind of people do this for “entertainment”, or

  • Linda says:

    Here in Canada in the province of Saskatchewan, as health care providers, when patients and families disclose ongoing animal abuse, we because of patient confidentiality are not allowed to report the abuse. Even though we know that patient will be returning to the home and the chance of repeat abuse is extremely high, we cannot act. This is extremely frustrating and we feel very helpless.



  • Annamaria sette de paolis says:

    I would appreciate if Peta could – time by time – inform us on good (and/or bad) US laws on animals, welfare, those (sadly) breeded for foodstaffs. Thanks !
    annamaria sette de paolis

  • Jen-X says:

    This is an extremely important topic. Another organization, American Humane, is devoted to this very issue. Go to: http://www.americanhumane.org/. They have lots of information about this and ways to help. Great organization!

  • Teresa says:

    I,too, was in a very short marriage where I was continuously controlled by a man who threatened to kill my dogs. They probably saved my life since I tend to have a very short temper when cornered. Because of my concern for their safety, I just took it and kept my mouth shut. Truly, I would die for them. Fortunately, I have woderful friends and family and they helped me get my guys out so that I could take care of the situation. I am glad to see someone bring this problem to light.

  • Kerry says:

    Michelle, you are a very creative and fun to read writer. No matter what the subject, You are able to capture the readers attention and keep the reader interested in what you have say. I look forward to reading more articles from this writer, as her words inspire and motivate and educate. Re: DV animal victims, as a DV counselor, we “get it”….and we have rallied to assist the animals as well as the victims. Shelters are starting to include pet info. in their shelter screening process and become more full service centers. I am so grateful I am still around to see this. I myself, stayed in a horrific marriage for the sake of my animals. Today, my animals are with me and I am FREE !!!!!!

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  • Tina says:

    Dear Michelle,
    It is terrible to think that a person would inflict pain to or kill an animal just to intmidate and control another person. It certainly, as you pointed out in your article, is one of the three major flags that can say a lot about the mental state of the people whom commit such acts. It can be condensed into three words: Manipulation. Domination. Control. These people are good at seeming ‘normal’ most of the time but their agenda is always the same.
    It is a worthwhile fight to have animals included within the solutions to domestic violence. Unfortunatley, this is a slow process, and when you think how long it took for rape and abuse to be classified as chargable offences within marriage, the mind just boggles at the need for people to continually repeat the same mistakes over and over.
    I have nothing but admiration for all of those women that have such heart that they would find courage to do what they need to do to keep all that they love safe, whether they be children or pets. I hope and pray that they never give up and can finally one day put their lives back together, in safety and peace.

  • Betsy says:

    I think that people who abuse animals, whether to hurt them intentianly or to hurt someone else, is discusting. I think that the government should have a law : That when you but and animals (no matter how small) the shop or shelter you get the animal from has to come to your house to make sure the animal is ok. It might take more time and work but it is better in the long run.

  • Laura says:

    Hi Michelle,

    Our local animal shelter has such a program for fostering the animal companions of abused women who want to enter shelters and cannot take their companions with them. Excellent blog, thanks for all the great info!

  • Deanne says:

    We need to do everythng we can to pass legislation that includes animals in protection from abuse orders. I was a victim of physical abuse and my abuser would attack my dog to hurt my heart and when I would step into to save my pet I would take the beating. I could not allow him to abuse my beloved pet, who was my only comfort in so many times of trouble.

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