I had the wonderful opportunity to volunteer alongside Summer Wyatt, West Virginia HSUS Director this past autumn. During a break in our day, we fell into a discussion about her job duties, the prevalence of horse abuse and neglect occurring in her state, and how she became involved in animal welfare. One of the key points she kept bringing up was the link between animal abuse and domestic violence.
This was a topic that had always interested me and is always in the back of my mind when I see an animal that has been neglected or abused. One of the newer rescues at Paws For Life is Sloan, a white shepherd-husky mix. He is a shy and sweet 10-month old who is active and loves to play. He is also still recovering from a severe laceration that at one point was two inches wide and four inches long. As the injury was mostly healed by the time he came to the rescue, the vets are unsure if it had been a bite wound from another dog, piece of jagged metal, or some kind of stabbing incident.
I always wonder in cases like Sloan. I wonder if the wound was caused by a person, what the life of that person is like.
According to this downloadable .pdf from the National Coalition of Domestic Violence, we have a pretty good picture of that life:
- 71% of pet-owning women entering women’s shelters reported that their batterer had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control victims; 32% reported their children had hurt or killed animals.
- 68% of battered women reported violence towards their animals. 87% of these incidents occurred in the presence of the women, and 75% in the presence of the children, to psychologically control and coerce them.
- Between 25% and 40% of battered women are unable to escape abusive situations because they worry about what will happen to their pets should they leave. The percentage increases for women who have pets but no children.
- Only 12% of domestic violence shelters offer shelter for pets.
- Women who do seek safety at shelters are nearly 11 times more likely to report that theri partner has hurt or killed their animals than women who have not experienced domestic abuse.
Again, animal issues are people issues. And in this case, identifying abuse in animals can save human lives.
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