by Sydney Uhl
Pets are more than just companions; they are family members, and they experience the
same climate of fear, control, and violence that shatters the lives of human survivors. Many victims rely on their pets for comfort, and abusers often take advantage of the connection between victims and their pet.
Domestic violence goes beyond physical abuse. It can also involve intimidation, sexual assault, psychological and economic abuse, stalking, and threats as part of a systematic pattern of power and control by one partner over another.
Abusers may maintain control by threatening to hurt or kill the victim’s pets if they try to leave. Many victims of domestic violence are hesitant to leave their abusive partners out of fear for their pets' safety and welfare. 89% of survivors with pets say their abusers threatened, hurt, or killed their pets to prevent them from leaving or to force them to return.
Abusers who also harm animals are more dangerous and utilize more aggressive and oppressive methods than those who do not. As a result, victims are less likely to report the violence or seek support. More than twice as many abusers who target both people and animals have access to firearms. The risk of death for first responders also increases in cases when the abusers have a history of abusing pets.
Organizations across the country are currently making efforts to support pet owners experiencing domestic violence. Legislation to address the issue of domestic violence involving animals has been proposed in some states. This includes measures to include pets in restraining orders and more severe penalties for abusers who harm animals.
At Peace at Home, we have a dedicated Pet Advocate on our staff to assist survivors in safely escaping violence with all members of the family. In the spring of 2024, we will complete construction of the Candy Clark Pet Sanctuary, a facility which will allow us to house up to 7 dogs and 4 cats. We are committed to supporting survivos of domestic violence. If you or someone you know is feeling unsafe in a relationship, call us on our 24/7 Help Line at 479.442.9811.