The relationship between
animal abuse and interpersonal violence
“When animals are abused, people are at risk. When people are abused, animals are at risk.”
- Phil Arkow
Leaving an abusive relationship is not an easy thing to do. For the victims of domestic violence who own animals, the decision to leave can be exceptionally difficult. Partnerships between animal welfare organizations and human service agencies can help improve the safety of persons fleeing interpersonal violence and abuse, and their animals.
How animal safekeeping programs help protect animals and people
Animals are also exposed to and affected by violence in the home. Not only can animals be abused, they can be used as a tool for the abuser to control and punish the victim. Pets are seen as part of the family, making it hard for many victims of abuse to leave the home knowing their pet is left behind.
If someone punches, kicks, throws, or hurts an animal in any way, that person has demonstrated the capacity for violence. You cannot assume that the violence will stop there. If the person has harmed or seriously threatened your animal, you and your children may also be in danger.
What effect does animal abuse have on children?
Some victims of domestic violence have reported that their children have become more aggressive after witnessing animal cruelty in the home. Children sometimes behave more cruelly to animals, and often become more hurtful to others (for example, bullying) or withdrawn and emotional. It’s important when talking to a counselor that you mention any animal abuse that has occurred.
What steps can I take to protect my animals?
Try to remove the animals from the situation as soon as possible.
Gather supplies that might be useful if you have to leave quickly with your pet: a carrier, a collar and leash, medications.
Ask friends or trusted family members to care for your pet/pets temporarily.
If you are planning to stay at an emergency shelter, mention to them you are concerned about your pet's safety. They may be able to assist you in finding a safe place for your animal.
Some animal shelters may be able to provide temporary pet care or help arrange for foster care. Talk with your nearest SPCA or Humane Society to see if they can assist.
Contact a kennel to make arrangements to have your pet boarded. Kennels will require proof of vaccinations so remember to bring a recent veterinary invoice with you. (Your veterinarian may be able to supply a full vaccination record directly to the boarding kennel, upon request.)
If you live in Regina:
The Regina Humane Society Safe Places Program accepts family pets when a victim of domestic violence is leaving, or has already left the home to enter a shelter environment. For further information on the Safe Places Program, please contact 306.543.6363 Ext. 244.
If you live in Saskatoon:
The Saskatoon SPCA Pet Safekeeping Program assists the victims of domestic violence with the short-term care of companion animals. For further information on the Pet Safekeeping Program, please contact 306-374-7387.
New Hope Dog Rescue's Animal Safekeeping (ASK) Program provides free care for pets owned by the victims of interpersonal violence. Pets will be cared for in foster homes for up to 90 days. The foster homes have received specialized training to meet the needs of pets coming from homes where there has been violence or abuse.
This program is available at no charge for the pet owner. All necessary food and pet care supplies (e.g., bowls, leashes) are provided. Veterinary care is also available. Click here to learn more about the ASK Program.
Other things to keep in mind:
If your animal is being threatened or harmed, keep any evidence you may have (such as photos, emails, or voice mail messages) to hand over to police.
Any receipts or paperwork you have related to the purchase or care of your pet can be useful if you have to prove ownership.
What can I do if my pet has been abused?
Report animal abuse to one of the organizations listed below or to your local RCMP or municipal police. They will investigate the situation and take appropriate action. You can make an anonymous complaint.
Click here to learn more about the proper authorities to contact if you suspect an animal is being abused.