Many studies have documented strong links between animal abuse and other forms of violence against humans. Children who maim or kill animals are frequently victims of abuse themselves, and many grow up to become violent criminals. There is a significant correlation between domestic violence against spouses and/or children and abuse of family pets. Many battered spouses remain in these dangerous home situations for fear their pets may be harmed or killed if they leave. As more organizations for battered spouses are recognizing animal abuse as a significant problem, more options are becoming available to protect both spouses and pets.
As reported by the American Humane document “Facts about Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence”, several studies indicate that in at least 65% of all reported domestic violence cases, women had also reported killing, injuring or maiming of their pets. This is frequently done in front of the abused women and their children, and in some cases the children themselves contribute to the abuse of pets, primarily out of fear.
As part of a front-line recognition of this ongoing problem, in many communities law enforcement and animal services agencies work together to be able to better recognize situations where a case of animal abuse may point to domestic violence or vice versa. Since many times an investigation of a report of animal abuse may be the initial report to law enforcement, animal cruelty investigators in many cities are trained to recognize and report potential abuse against human family members.
In recognition of the close link between family violence and animal abuse, more and more organizations are establishing “safe haven” programs for pets whose owners must leave abusive domestic relationships. These programs are designed to provide temporary foster care for pets while domestic violence victims get back on their feet and re-establish a new life. They then reunite pets with their families. Some domestic violence shelters offer pet care on-site, while others may have relationships with local shelters, foster home programs or veterinarians. All are geared towards recognizing the strong bond between pets and people and trying to protect both animals and domestic abuse victims. The Safe Harbor Foundation is just one program that operates nationally to help people and animals find safety and establish abuse-free lives.
For more information, visit American Human’s Pets and Women’s Shelters (PAWS)(R) Program. Other information is available from the Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA, or local shelters in your area.