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When Pet Owners are Victims of Domestic Abuse

When Pet Owners are Victims of Domestic Abuse
April 17, 2023

A very dear client of ours who runs a rescue and has many rescues herself, Paige of Isle of Misfits, recently revealed on her rescue’s Instagram account that she is a survivor of domestic abuse. In light of her courageous post, we wanted to shed some light on a subject that many people may not realize about domestic abuse when pets are involved and what you can do if you or a loved one is facing distress.

One in 3 women and 1 in 4 men experience domestic abuse in their lifetimes. Many of these survivors have gotten out of their abusive relationships thanks in part to being able to flee to a domestic violence shelter. However, only 15% of domestic violence shelters accept pets. As a result, 48% of survivors delay leaving because they can’t take their pets with them.

It puts survivors in a position to make an agonizing decision: do they stay with their abuser and pets, or leave their pets behind—potentially becoming victims of abuse themselves—because a shelter won’t take them in?

This isn’t a decision abuse victims take lightly. Over 70 percent of women in domestic violence shelters have had their abuser threaten, injure, or kill their pet. Pet abuse is one of the forms of intimidation used by abusers to wield power and control over their victims.

For survivors of domestic violence, oftentimes pets are like family members who provide unconditional love and support when it is needed most. So, what can be done to help those going through such an ordeal?

There are programs like The Purple Leash Project by Purina to help keep people and their pets together; and RedRover’s mission is to help bring people from crisis to care. Additionally, if you or someone you know is needing a safe place to go, reach out to your local domestic violence shelter. Even if they don’t accept pets, they may have resources to pass along to you.

The Domestic Violence Hotline is another incredible resource that can help you create a safety plan for you and your pet. It contains practical suggestions, such as ensuring you are not being monitored as you search for help on the internet. This helpful checklist is found on their website, which outlines steps for taking your pet with you when the moment is right:

  • Take steps to prove ownership of your pet. Have them vaccinated and licensed in the place where you live, making sure the registrations are done in your name. Take steps to have them changed if necessary.
  • If possible, avoid leaving pets alone with an abusive partner.
  • If your pet is microchipped, make sure your abusive partner is not listed as a contact.
  • If you’re planning to leave, talk to friends, family, or your veterinarian about temporary care for your pet if necessary. If that’s not an option, search for services that assist domestic violence survivors with safekeeping for their pets, or contact your local domestic violence shelter or animal shelter directly. For help finding an animal shelter, visit the Humane Society website.
  • If you decide to leave, bring extra provisions for your pets, including food and medications, copies of their medical records, and important phone numbers.
  • If you’re thinking about getting a protective order, find out if your state allows pets to be included in such orders.
  • After leaving, consider changing veterinarians and avoid leaving pets outside alone to ensure their long-term safety.
  • If you’ve had to leave your pet behind with an abusive partner, consider seeking assistance from local services like animal control to see if they can intervene.

The Animal Welfare Institute has another helpful checklist that can help you create a safety plan.

We wanted to emphasize never underestimating friends and relatives. They may be able to temporarily take care of your pet, or even provide you both a place to stay until a more permanent solution is found.

If you are a client of ours and need help, please let us know. Or if you are local to us and need a new veterinarian after leaving your partner, we’d be honored to be trusted with your pet’s care. We are most truly Devoted to Pets and their People.

Northeast Animal Hospital