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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 StrikeŽ 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?

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