Abusers of animals are five times as likely to harm humans. Nearly half of the victims who stay in violent households do so because they are afraid for their animals. Countless more never leave the home for this very reason. Companion animals like cats and dogs may be threatened or harmed; the vulnerability of other animals like horses may also make it difficult for victims to escape in emergencies.
The “link” between violence against humans and animals is clear. But there are resources that can help. Understanding the Cycle of Violence After a violent episode, whether physical, emotional, or sexual, tension builds to a breaking point. The abuser blames the victim and minimizes the violence, then woos the victim back in a honeymoon phase, and the victim hopes the cycle is over. But the cycle repeats itself, almost without fail.
Many victims hope the violence will end or believe they can protect animals in the home. The truth is that a person who harms animals will likely harm humans–and a person who harms humans will almost certainly harm animals. Staying with an abuser puts every human and nonhuman in the home at risk. Children in violent households, who have likely been abused themselves, represent one-fifth of domestic animal cruelty cases.
When a child harms animals it can indicate that serious abuse has been inflicted on the child; consequently, animals are abused in nearly all households in which children have been abused. Furthermore, children who witness animal abuse are at greater risk of becoming abusers. Many violent offenders committed childhood acts of animal abuse. Silence and Domestic Violence According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), domestic violence comes in many forms, including physical, sexual, and emotional violence, and threats.
Killing, harming, or threatening to harm animals are weapons used by abusers to manipulate victims into silence and to destroy the comfort animals provide. Abuse is not a problem with anger management, but rather a way to establish and maintain control over victims. Protecting victims of domestic violence will help protect animals too. Experts agree that statistics about abuse, while disturbing, probably downplay the true magnitude of domestic violence.
To fight the silence that hides domestic violence, the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) helped establish the National Domestic Violence Hotline and exponentially increased the reporting of domestic violence. In February, 2013 Congress passed reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Without better laws, domestic abusers–who have up to an 80% rate of recidivism–will almost certainly repeat their crimes.
An Undeniable Link Animal abuse is often the first visible sign a family is in trouble. Many victims entering shelters report that their abuser has hurt, killed, or threatened family animals. About a third report their children have harmed animals. Victims often admit an animal is being abused before they admit their own suffering. Animal cruelty investigations frequently unravel chronic domestic abuse.
How the Law Can Help Legal remedies include improving the ability of domestic violence shelters to coordinate the protection of animals. Laws that put custody of companion animals directly into legal “protection orders” allow judges to help human and animal victims. Establishing ownership of animals can be difficult and often requires legal assistance. Many communities have services that provide free legal advice in this area.
Felony penalties for animal cruelty allow prosecutors to better prosecute offenders, because, sadly, most domestic violence cases are only prosecuted at the misdemeanor level. Redefining the legal definition of domestic violence to include animal cruelty can make a difference. As a step toward this, some states have addressed animal abuse committed in the presence of children. Oregon is one such state; ORS 167.
320 makes animal abuse a felony if committed in the presence of a minor child. Under this statute, prior domestic violence convictions against a human victim count as prior to trigger the felony clause. Cross-reporting Is Key Cross-reporting requires law enforcement and social agencies to report abuse and collaborate in investigations – in some states animal protection agencies must also report suspected child abuse, and child protective services must also report suspected animal cruelty.
States like New York and New Mexico are considering such laws. California (SB 1264) and Virginia (HB 74 and SB 239) recently enacted laws that impact reporting by animal control officers and veterinarians who suspect child abuse. There is some debate, however, about whether mandatory reporting laws can be enforced properly. What You Can Do Have a Plan. If you or someone you love is in a dangerous situation, have an escape and emergency plan for both human and animal victims.
Ask your domestic violence shelter or national hotline for tips on forming an escape plan. Organizations like Georgia-based Ahimsa House can offer advice in preparation and planning, especially for individuals with non-traditional companion animals like horses, chickens, goats, sheep, that are more difficult to transport in emergencies. Do NOT leave animals with the abuser. Seek Shelter. If family and friends aren’t options, contact local shelters and ask for information about sheltering companion animals.
Many shelters have temporary “safe haven” foster programs. Seek Legal Advice. One of the smartest things victims can do to empower themselves is to get educated. Many local shelters and social services offer free legal advocates who provide crucial resources, assistance filing protective orders, and support in prosecutions. Contact your local shelter, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network hotline, or the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Advocate. Encourage women’s shelters to add questions about animals to intake forms, and to build animal kennels at their facilities. Encourage animal shelters to adopt temporary foster programs. Help victims establish ownership of companion animals and retrieve animals left behind. Establish community groups against domestic violence that includes local animal groups. Support the Victims. Because the rules of evidence have been so skewed to favor the defendant (at the expense of victim safety) victims need to be present in the courtroom at trial.
This is often a time of great anxiety and stress; providing a victim with the support necessary to get to court, testify truthfully while looking the abuser in the eye, is vital to ensuring offenders are held accountable. On average, a victim attempts to leave an abusive situation up to seven times before getting out for good. With support, legal assistance, and safe shelter, victims can escape violence.
More InformationSee Also: Rochester Community Animal Clinic
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Outside of a jungle of rain-washed pines and junipers spearing the hot blueness on the Florida sky, ran a little, tawny-haired boy. His bare toes, extending from his overalled legs, crackled versus the fallen palmettos. He leaped to the air, flinging his arms toward a flock of white doves circling over him.
The Link between Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence Several studies have shown that there is a link between animal abuse and domestic violence, as have reports from victims and survivors of domestic abuse. This really is quite logical - someone who is able to be abusive towards other people, is not likely to be any more considerate towards animals. Furthermore, people who are able to use and manipulate children to either gain or maintain control over their partners are not likely to have pangs of conscience in using pets in the same way.
Being violent or abusive towards animals is one of the early warning signs of an abusive character, and in some states in the US the police are trained to look for signs of animal abuse or neglect in pets when called to a domestic violence incident. For some of the research into the connection between animal abuse and domestic violence and child abuse check out the following links: How is an abuser likely to use pets to reinforce control? And what are the messages being sent to victims (partner & children)? In harming animals an abuser is showing what he is capable of, the implicit message to the victim is 'this could be you'.
Purposely harming pets or allowing harm to come to them is also another way of hurting, and thereby controlling, the victim. As the following statements from abuse victims show clearly, the link between animal abuse and domestic violence is very real and only too often used as another way of terrorizing partners and children: "We had a puppy who was under a year old. He used to hit the dog for the least little thing.
One of the neighbours came out one day and had a go at him for how he was treating the dog. I came home from work one day to find no dog. He told me that the dog had run out the garden. Why he wasn't out searching for him I dont know but he suddenly decided to as I was frantic, calling shelters, the police etc. We never found the dog ever. Then a few years ago during a fight he started he said something along the lines of did I never wonder what happened to the dog? Then he told me how he killed the dog and buried it.
I don't know if this is true, he of course denied it afterwards and told me he just said that to upset me." "The cat I have now he never liked, he would always try to hit or kick her if he was in foul mood." "He put my kitten in my 6 ft. boa constrictor's tank to see if it would eat her. Because I had told him the snake was hungry. He sat at the tank for over an hour. I washed the dishes crying until he made me sit in the living room and watch too.
The snake never tried but I'm sure if he was a little more hungry he would have." "On a few occasions when we were on his boat he would threaten to throw my dog overboard and hang him over the side by the scruff of his neck and pretend he was going to drop him in the sea. My dog is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier - Staffies can't swim much because of their thick build. I was terrified that he might go too far one day .
.." Pets can be used to buy silence and compliance... "if you tell anyone/don't do as I say/agree with me/etc ... your cat might disappear" - a tactic used by paedophiles to silence children they molest too. Animal abuse can be used to further isolate the victim and prevent her from leaving, either by insuring the pet or by threatening to either do so or not to look after it if the victim is not around, leaving the victim of abuse feeling that the only way to protect the pet from the abuser is to stay (ie not leave) or not to go out during the day/evening, hence further the social isolation.
"I used to come home and my dog would be sat in his bed panting, scared to move, but I could never prove that anything had happened and I could never dare ask." A pet can often be a form of comfort to an abuse victim, so harming or killing the pet can add to the feelings of loneliness and despair. Some surivors of abuse have also said that their abuser objected to their relationship with their pets and would get jealous of any attention shown to it, or use issues surrounding the pets to start an argument which would lead to further violence.
"I thought he was isolating me not only from my friends and family but from the animals I loved too. He hated me cuddling my dog on the sofa, moved her out of the bedroom at night and eventually she was only allowed in the kitchen and the garden. He was pleased as punch when I rehomed her." An abuser who is willing and capable of brutally killing a pet is also perfectly able to kill their partner or children, a fact which became very clear to Belinda when her husband massacred her dogs: "My abuser had my two dogs in the pig pen beating them relentlessly with a 2 inch x 4 inch piece of board.
I tried to stop him but he pushed me to the ground and carried on with his massacre. It was raining heavily and I picked up the smaller of the two dogs who was already unconscious and carried her, skidding through the mud, to the back of the house. I hid her under a bush and quickly returned hoping to save the other larger dog. My abuser had stopped beating him and disappeared to search for the second dog.
My dog lay on his side covered in blood and gasping for air as blood bubbled from his mouth and nose. ... It was at that moment that I accepted that this man was a sick, brutal killer and I couldn't raise my baby like this." (Her husband did in fact go on to try killing her, see Belinda's Story) Keeping our pets safe What options do we actually have for keeping our pets safe? Many victims of domestic abuse choose to rehome their pets for their own safety and well-being, before they themselves are ready to leave the relationship, or when considering leaving, in the hope of being re-united once safe from their abuser.
In many cases victims of abuse have been unwilling to leave their home and seek refuge for fear of what would happen with their pets and have chosen to stay for their sake - which the abuser has only been too aware of and has used to continue to control their victim. While there are not many Refuges (if any in the UK) which accept animals, there are a growing number of agencies and charities who understand the link between animal abuse and domestic violence and which work with the Refuges to provide short-term accommodation for pets of women escaping abusive relationships, such as the Freedom Project in London.
Ask your local Women's Aid or Refuge for details of any such organisation in your area. There are also details on the Helplines page of Hidden Hurt. If you have had to leave home in an emergency, it is often possible to ask the Police to accompany you back to your home to collect any pets which have been left there. Some useful Links The Freedom Project - The Freedom Project is as pet fostering scheme for women going into refuges or temporary accommodation, providing temporarily foster homes for dogs.
Paws For Kids - Offers a pet fostering service or helps find boarding kennels for pets of women fleeing domestic violence Refuge Information for Pet Owners - Offering basic information on your options and the links and contact details of most pet fostering services available in the UK at present (including Scotland)