According to Massachusetts State Senator Katherine Clark of all the women seeking a shelter due to domestic violence 85% also reported pet abuse in their home. Last March in Lowell, Massachusetts a Lowell man was charged with several counts of assault and battery and animal cruelty against his girlfriend, a second victim, and his girlfriend’s dogs. Miguel Andino allegedly threatened to kill his girlfriend’s family if she attempted to end the relationship. He also allegedly beat her dogs, strangling them until their eyes hemorrhaged, and locked the smallest dog in a drawer for up to 10 hours at a time. This troubling case is one example of the dangerous link between domestic violence and animal abuse. Each year more than three million women across the country are victims of domestic violence, making it the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44. In the United States, a woman is assaulted or beaten every 9 seconds. Despite the abuse, battered women often delay in leaving these abusive relationships. Studies by the American Humane Society show that nearly half of battered women delay leaving an abusive environment because they fear for a pet’s safety.
This topic touches close to home for me. I am a survivor of domestic violence and I have always had animals in my life who I consider part of my family. My abuser used the animals as a weapon to prevent me from leaving by making comments such as “if you leave you will come back and they will all be dead.” I later learned after I got the help I needed to safely leave protecting myself and my animals that he not only made these threats but according to my neighbors he would routinely punch my husky/shepherd directly in the face in the front yard until he would fall to the ground. He would also routinely kick his small dog across the yard. My neighbors were to afraid to call and report the animal abuse because they feared for my safety. I wish they had called and reported it. My pup recovered but it took him many years to trust people again. I also recovered and am now in a healthy marriage and have never looked back. However, there are many women who are not so lucky and are continuing to live in this cycle of violence. A friend of mine left her domestically violent husband and during the custody dispute involving the children he went to her home shot her dog in the head and left it on her doorstep. These type of incidents must end. It is time to Pay it Forward and here is how you can help…
- Report incidents of violence to animals to your local SPCA and Law Enforcement agencies.
- Offer to foster a survivors animals until she can relocate safely.
- Work with animal shelters, veterinarians, and rescue groups to establish “safe haven” foster care programs for the animal victims of domestic violence.
- Help survivors to include a plan for their pets in safety planning strategies.
- Help survivors to contact Law Enforcement and Humane agencies in order to safely retireve animals left behind.
- Make sure that animals are included in restraining orders.
- Help survivors find pet friendly transitional and permanent housing.
- When survivors can no longer care for their pets, help find a rescue organization that can take their pets and rehome them.
- If you are a victim of domestic violence contact your local humane society, SPCA, animal control agency, or veterinarian to see if they have temporary foster care facilities for your pets.
The fact is that pets are frequently used by abuser as pawns in the power and control dynamics of the abuser over the abused. The more cherished the pet the more the pet can and will be used as a means of control. Animal abuse is used as a means to get victims to stay or to return to the home which often results in homicide. This is an issue that cannot be overlooked and swept under the carpet. Domestic violence strikes one in four women (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The National Institute of Justice, Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence, July 2000. The Commonwealth Fund, Health Concerns Across a Woman’s Lifespan: 1998 Survey of Women’s Health, 1999). We must speak out and lend a hand now to protect both victims and pets from further abuse.
Lets all make a pledge in 2012 to help protect both victims and pets from further domestic violence. Pay it Forward today!