But here’s another one that I would like some advice about. What about pets in homes where there is domestic violence? Are they also at risk of abuse. What happens to the pets if the victim finally leaves? Do the courts protect animals too in these situations? This isn’t for me, but for a family that I know where I have some suspicion that things aren’t right. But there are kids and pets there and I don’t want to make things worse. Signed, Joan
This as a very serious question and we are not experts on domestic violence. So, the first thing you should do is call a domestic violence hotline to report what you know. They are the experts on what to do. In Oswego County, that number is 315-342-1600.
But what we can tell you is that domestic violence experts have long recognized that there is a clear link between abuse of animals and violence against people. Research shows that between 71% and 83% of women entering domestic violence shelters reported that their partners also abused or killed the family pet. In families under supervision for physical abuse of their children, pet abuse also occurred in 88% of the families.
This link plays out as a factor in several ways. Animal abuse can be a warning sign of impending domestic violence. That is why it is so important to report suspected animal cruelty and neglect.
Then, in both domestic violence and child-abuse situations, abusers may manipulate and control their human victims through threatened or actual violence against family pets. The problem with this of course is that victims may not seek help in order to try to not jeopardize their pets. Surveys of this issue vary, but between 18% and 48% of battered women delay leaving a dangerous situation out of concern for their pets’ safety.
Fortunately, New York allows Courts in family violence cases to issue restraining orders against the abuse of pets. But that is only a partial solution. Pets, like human abuse victims, both adults and children, need a place to go. Many domestic violence programs recognize that need. So while there are very few shelters where pets can actually stay with their families, programs have come up with a variety of creative ways to ensure the safety of pets—some rely on networks of foster care homes or are allowed to use the additional kennel space of a local humane society. Some shelters or humane societies house the pets of domestic violence victims offsite. Some organizations provide grants for emergency boarding services.
You can find information about these programs and how they deal with pets also needing help at the Animal Welfare Institute. www.awionline.org/safe-havens. We hope you never have to use these services, but isn’t it good to know that they are out there?
The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County. Located at 29 West Seneca Street, Oswego, New York. Phone (315) 207-1070. Email: [email protected] Website: www.oswegohumane.org