Domestic Violence Also Affects Our Furry Friends!
Tuesday in case you missed it was National Dog Day. All over Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram we were delighted to see pictures of our friends “dog children.” (Well, we also saw a bunny, but we were told it acted like a dog most of the time…to each their own.) Like most people we smiled and laughed at the hundreds of pictures showing beloved Fido in bunny ears, chasing a toy, or dressed in interesting animal couture. However, we couldn’t help but wonder if our followers ever stopped and thought to themselves about the animals that are affected by domestic violence.We often discuss how domestic violence affects coworkers, friends, family members, and small children, but little is mentioned about domestic violence and pets.
Picture yourself as a victim of domestic violence for a moment. You are in a relationship with an abusive individual whom you share an apartment with. You have no children but you own a cat that you’ve had for many years. She’s a fluffy, smushed in face, finicky old girl, but you love her dearly. Your relationship with your significant other has gotten worse over the past few months since they got laid off. What started as verbal insults and threats has now escalated into slaps on the face, breaking furniture, and shoving you into walls. You’ve had enough and have decided you want out of this relationship.
Unfortunately, your partner does not. In the heat of an intense argument, you storm out the apartment and call a friend asking if you can spend the night at their place to cool off and think. Your friend agrees and off you go. During the course of the night you get bombarded with text messages demanding you come home and asking where are you. You chose to ignore them however one chilling text message catches your eye.
If you don’t come home I’m going to kill your cat and it’ll be your fault. You wouldn’t want that would you? GET HOME NOW!
Unfortunately, for many domestic violence victims threats like these are often what holds them back from seeking help or going into shelter. Very few domestic violence shelters are equipped to board for pets and it is costly to have pets boarded by a veterinarian. For most victims that pet is a part of their family much like their children and the thought of harm coming to that animal is simply something they cannot bear to see.
According to the American Humane Association:
- 71% of pet-owning women entering women’s shelters reported that their batterer had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control victims.
- 68% of battered women reported violence towards their animals. 87% of these incidents occurred in the presence of the women, and 75% in the presence of the children, to psychologically control and coerce them.
- Between 25% and 40% of battered women are unable to escape abusive situations because they worry about what will happen to their pets or livestock should they leave.
- Pets may suffer unexplained injuries, health problems, permanent disabilities at the hands of abusers, or disappear from home.
- For many battered women, pets are sources of comfort providing strong emotional support: 98% of Americans consider pets to be companions or members of the family.
- Battered women have been known to live in their cars with their pets for as long as four months until an opening was available at a pet-friendly safe house.
While those statistics are alarming, there are things we can do to advocate on behalf of our furry friends:
- Encourage someone you suspect of being a victim of domestic violence to call our 24 hour hotline at 1-800-642-3150.
- Inquire about how the abuser treats the family pet(s).
- Work with your veterinarian offices, shelters, and clinics to develop foster programs for pets of domestic violence victims.
- Support Organizations such as Red Rover which provide services to animals in crisis as well as educate.
- Refer victims to http://safeplaceforpets.org/ which can help them locate temporary safe havens for their pets.
- Contact your House Representative and ask them to support the Protecting Animal Welfare and Safety (PAWS) Act which encourages protection for animals of domestic violence and makes sure the pet and their owner have a safe place to go. Visit http://www.opencongress.org/bill/hr5267-113/text for more information.
No living thing should have be a victim of domestic violence. Unfortunately animals cannot advocate for themselves and it is up to us to fight on their behalf. At Laurel House we support freedom from abuse for humans and animals alike and we hope you will do the same.