Thursday, February 26, 2009

Animal Cruelty as a Factor in Family Violence

The connection between domestic violence and animal cruelty is now widely acknowledged and accepted. States are beginning to incorporate these crimes into their packages of domestic violence laws and shelters are beginning to accommodate these vulnerable members of victims families

Washington state is one of the recent states moving towards protecting family pets legally. There is a well-established shelter and crisis center for animal victims of domestic violence in Atlanta, Georgia. Hopefully these successful initiatives will inspire others all over the country

From the Family Law Prof blog:

Domestic Violence and the Family Pet

A Bill introduced in the state of Washington, HB 1148, would protect animals from domestic violence. The introduction to the Bill states:

The legislature finds that considerable research shows a strong correlation between animal abuse, child abuse, and domestic violence. The legislature intends that perpetrators of domestic violence not be allowed to further terrorize and manipulate their victims, or the children of their victims, by using the threat of violence toward pets.

What is Ahimsa House?
Perpetrators of domestic violence often hurt family pets to control and intimidate their victims. Ahimsa House, Inc. - a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation - is dedicated to helping the human and animal victims of domestic violence across Georgia reach safety together.

As Georgia's only organization of this type, Ahimsa House accomplishes its mission by:

  1. Providing confidential emergency shelter and veterinary care for animal victims
  2. Maintaining a 24-hour crisis line providing referrals and information
  3. Raising awareness about the connections between animal abuse and domestic violence

Promotional Video


The Humane Society of the United States |

Animal Cruelty/Domestic Violence Fact Sheet

Why do batterers threaten, abuse, or kill animals?
  • To demonstrate and confirm power and control over the family.
  • To isolate the victim and children.
  • To eliminate competition for attention.
  • To force the family to keep violence a secret.
  • To teach submission.
  • To retaliate for acts of independence and self-determination.
  • To perpetuate the context of terror.
  • To prevent the victim from leaving or coerce her/him to return.
  • To punish the victim for leaving.
  • To degrade the victim through involvement in the abuse.

Why should we recognize animal abuse as a form of battering?

  • Animal abuse exposes the deliberateness of battering rather than loss of control.
  • Animal abuse and child abuse are closely related.
  • Animal abuse is often a tool used by batterers to emotionally control or coerce victims.
  • Threatening, injuring, or killing animals can indicate the potential for increased violence or lethality.
  • Victims may postpone leaving out of fear for their pets' safety.
  • Identifying animal abusers can help identify other victims of violence within the family.

What can victims of domestic violence do to protect their pets?

  • Develop an emergency plan for sheltering the pets, themselves, and their children (Review a copy of the First Strike® planning guide, Making the Connection: Protecting Your Pet From Domestic Violence.)
  • Establish ownership of the pets (obtain an animal license, proof of vaccinations or veterinary receipts in victim's name to help prove they own the pets).
  • Prepare the pets for departure (collect vaccination and medical records, collar and identification, medication, bowls, bedding, etc.).
  • Ask for assistance from law enforcement or animal care and control officers to reclaim the pets if left behind.

What are suggested intake questions regarding pets that should be asked by a domestic violence shelter?

  • Do you now have a pet? If yes, how many and what kinds?
  • Have you had a pet in the past 12 months? If yes, what kinds?
  • Has your partner ever hurt or killed a family pet? If yes, describe.
  • Has your partner ever threatened to hurt or kill a family pet? If yes, describe.
  • Have you ever hurt or killed a family pet? If yes, describe.
  • Have any of your children ever hurt or killed a family pet? If yes, describe.
  • Was the animal considered the child's, yours, your partner's or the family's pet?
  • Did your concern for a pet's welfare keep you from coming to a shelter sooner than now? If yes, explain.
  • Did you leave the abusive partner because of the abuse of a pet? If yes, describe.

What can advocates do to raise awareness about the connection between animal cruelty and domestic violence in their communities?

  • Take animal abuse seriously.
  • Contact their counterparts in other agencies.
  • Develop cross-training and cross-reporting among animal welfare, domestic violence, child abuse and other related agencies.
  • Support strong anticruelty laws.
  • Develop community anti-violence coalitions.
  • Develop community based programs to promote empathy and humane education.
  • Encourage research on the connection.
  • Work with local animal shelters, veterinarians, veterinary schools and boarding kennels to develop emergency housing programs for pets.
  • Collect data in their own agencies.
  • Add questions to intake forms about animal cruelty.

What does The HSUS's First Strike campaign do to help other organizations?

  • Provide First Strike materials and related information.
  • Assist with outreach efforts (e.g., workshops, contacts, etc.).
  • Provide information and contacts for model programs across the country.
  • Provide advice, support, and technical assistance.
  • Provide assistance on cases involving animal cruelty.
  • Assist with legislative efforts.
  • Help raise awareness of domestic violence, child abuse and other forms of human violence among animal protection organizations and activists.

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