Hidden Hurt Domestic Abuse Information

Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence

puppyThe Link between Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence

Several studies have shown that there is a link between animal abuse and domestic violence, as have reports from victims and survivors of domestic abuse. This really is quite logical - someone who is able to be abusive towards other people, is not likely to be any more considerate towards animals. Furthermore, people who are able to use and manipulate children to either gain or maintain control over their partners are not likely to have pangs of conscience in using pets in the same way. Being violent or abusive towards animals is one of the early warning signs of an abusive character, and in some states in the US the police are trained to look for signs of animal abuse or neglect in pets when called to a domestic violence incident.

For some of the research into the connection between animal abuse and domestic violence and child abuse check out the following links:

How is an abuser likely to use pets to reinforce control? And what are the messages being sent to victims (partner & children)?

In harming animals an abuser is showing what he is capable of, the implicit message to the victim is 'this could be you'. Purposely harming pets or allowing harm to come to them is also another way of hurting, and thereby controlling, the victim. As the following statements from abuse victims show clearly, the link between animal abuse and domestic violence is very real and only too often used as another way of terrorizing partners and children:

"We had a puppy who was under a year old. He used to hit the dog for the least little thing. One of the neighbours came out one day and had a go at him for how he was treating the dog. I came home from work one day to find no dog. He told me that the dog had run out the garden. Why he wasn't out searching for him I dont know but he suddenly decided to as I was frantic, calling shelters, the police etc. We never found the dog ever. Then a few years ago during a fight he started he said something along the lines of did I never wonder what happened to the dog? Then he told me how he killed the dog and buried it. I don't know if this is true, he of course denied it afterwards and told me he just said that to upset me."

"The cat I have now he never liked, he would always try to hit or kick her if he was in foul mood."

"He put my kitten in my 6 ft. boa constrictor's tank to see if it would eat her. Because I had told him the snake was hungry. He sat at the tank for over an hour. I washed the dishes crying until he made me sit in the living room and watch too. The snake never tried but I'm sure if he was a little more hungry he would have."

"On a few occasions when we were on his boat he would threaten to throw my dog overboard and hang him over the side by the scruff of his neck and pretend he was going to drop him in the sea. My dog is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier - Staffies can't swim much because of their thick build. I was terrified that he might go too far one day ..."

Pets can be used to buy silence and compliance... "if you tell anyone/don't do as I say/agree with me/etc ... your cat might disappear" - a tactic used by paedophiles to silence children they molest too.

Animal abuse can be used to further isolate the victim and prevent her from leaving, either by insuring the pet or by threatening to either do so or not to look after it if the victim is not around, leaving the victim of abuse feeling that the only way to protect the pet from the abuser is to stay (ie not leave) or not to go out during the day/evening, hence further the social isolation.

"I used to come home and my dog would be sat in his bed panting, scared to move, but I could never prove that anything had happened and I could never dare ask."

A pet can often be a form of comfort to an abuse victim, so harming or killing the pet can add to the feelings of loneliness and despair. Some surivors of abuse have also said that their abuser objected to their relationship with their pets and would get jealous of any attention shown to it, or use issues surrounding the pets to start an argument which would lead to further violence.

"I thought he was isolating me not only from my friends and family but from the animals I loved too. He hated me cuddling my dog on the sofa, moved her out of the bedroom at night and eventually she was only allowed in the kitchen and the garden. He was pleased as punch when I rehomed her."

An abuser who is willing and capable of brutally killing a pet is also perfectly able to kill their partner or children, a fact which became very clear to Belinda when her husband massacred her dogs:

"My abuser had my two dogs in the pig pen beating them relentlessly with a 2 inch x 4 inch piece of board. I tried to stop him but he pushed me to the ground and carried on with his massacre. It was raining heavily and I picked up the smaller of the two dogs who was already unconscious and carried her, skidding through the mud, to the back of the house. I hid her under a bush and quickly returned hoping to save the other larger dog. My abuser had stopped beating him and disappeared to search for the second dog. My dog lay on his side covered in blood and gasping for air as blood bubbled from his mouth and nose. ... It was at that moment that I accepted that this man was a sick, brutal killer and I couldn't raise my baby like this." (Her husband did in fact go on to try killing her, see Belinda's Story)

Keeping our pets safe

What options do we actually have for keeping our pets safe? Many victims of domestic abuse choose to rehome their pets for their own safety and well-being, before they themselves are ready to leave the relationship, or when considering leaving, in the hope of being re-united once safe from their abuser. In many cases victims of abuse have been unwilling to leave their home and seek refuge for fear of what would happen with their pets and have chosen to stay for their sake - which the abuser has only been too aware of and has used to continue to control their victim.

While there are not many Refuges (if any in the UK) which accept animals, there are a growing number of agencies and charities who understand the link between animal abuse and domestic violence and which work with the Refuges to provide short-term accommodation for pets of women escaping abusive relationships, such as the Freedom Project in London. Ask your local Women's Aid or Refuge for details of any such organisation in your area. There are also details on the Helplines page of Hidden Hurt.

If you have had to leave home in an emergency, it is often possible to ask the Police to accompany you back to your home to collect any pets which have been left there.

Some useful Links

The Freedom Project - The Freedom Project is as pet fostering scheme for women going into refuges or temporary accommodation, providing temporarily foster homes for dogs.

Paws For Kids - Offers a pet fostering service or helps find boarding kennels for pets of women fleeing domestic violence

Refuge Information for Pet Owners - Offering basic information on your options and the links and contact details of most pet fostering services available in the UK at present (including Scotland)

Return from Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence to Abuse Victims

In This Section:

Related Pages:

Alcohol and Domestic Violence

Recommended Reading:

In the UK the following book is available:

Prevention and Intervention in Child Abuse, Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse: Linking the Circles of Compassion

In the US the following books looking at the links between animal abuse and domestic violence are available:

Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, and Animal Abuse: Linking the Circles of Compassion for Prevention and Intervention


Animal Cruelty: Pathway to Violence Against People

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