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- Domestic violence victims may be unable to leave or delay leaving due to concerns about a pet’s safety.
- Some domestic violence victims may be especially attached to their pets, especially victims who are isolated from social contact by their abusers. Pets offer companionship and may also be integral parts of children’s lives. Pets may also aid in the victim’s long term healing.
- Abusers sometimes threaten harm to a pet to exert control over a victim, to induce a victim to stay, as a means of punishing the victim for leaving, or as a means of coercing the victim to come back. An abuser may threaten to harm the animal, actually harm the animal, and then warn the victim that s/he may end up being hurt in the same way.
- Animal abuse can be an indicator that a victim may be in a lethal situation. An abuser’s actions towards a pet may be a sign for what harm may befall the victim. If the abuser actually ends the pet’s life, it may signal that the abuser is willing to of inflict severe, and perhaps lethal, harm to the victim.
- A victim may more readily react in self-defense if s/he knows that the abuser has the capability of causing similar harm to the victim as was inflicted on a pet.
- Sometimes overlooked is the animal’s welfare. The abuser’s threats sometimes lead to actual physical harm to the animal.
Talking To a Counselor Or Attorney About Animal Abuse - An advocate should ask whether you have any pets, and if so, whether your abuser has threatened or harmed the pets. Advocates should also ask whether the pets require emergency shelter if you are planning on leaving your abuser.
Why should you talk about any abuse of your pet? Good advocates will recognize the link between abuse (or threats of abuse) to a pet and abuse of a human. It is important to discuss these issues of pet abuse, because usually something can be done to protect your pet and descriptions of threats or actual abuse to a pet will help your advocate understand the “full picture” of your individual situation.
Walking the dog - A daily walk can be used as a way to look at the layout of your neighborhood and to plan a possible escape route. You can use a walk can as an excuse to leave the house when you sense that a volatile situation is about to erupt.
Create a Safety Plan that includes your pet. Learn more about creating a safety plan.
If you are planning on staying:
- Keep emergency provisions for your pet in case your abuser withholds money.
- Keep the phone number of the nearest 24-hour emergency veterinary clinic.
- Establish ownership of your pet by creating a paper trail (e.g., obtain a license, have veterinarian records put in your name).
If you are planning to leave:
- Obtain safe emergency shelter for your pet, somewhere that won't be disclosed to your abuser (e.g., veterinarian, friend, family, etc.).
- Pack a bag for your pet that includes:
- documents of ownership (e.g., receipts, veterinary records, license to establish ownership, receipts for animal purchases)
If you must leave without your pet, remember to leave enough food, fresh bedding, litter, etc. for your pet.
If you have left...
- Keep pets indoors (if possible).
- Don't let the pet outside alone.
- Pick a safe route and time to walk your pet.
- Don't exercise/walk pet alone.
- Change your veterinarian.
A judge may order temporary custody of a pet in a temporary or final protective order. Learn more about protective orders.