Domestic Violence and Pets

Domestic violence is an issue that does not discriminate. It affects all people regardless of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status. It affects children, our friends, and even our pets. People who abuse will use anything they can to gain power or control over their partner, which can include their partner’s beloved pets.

Knowing this, the National Domestic Violence Hotline recently released a joint report with the Urban Resource Institute (URI) on the intersection of domestic violence and pets, including the results of a survey of nearly 2,500 survivors over our lines. The purpose of this survey was to determine how pet ownership affects victims and survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) in their immediate safety planning, as well as when they are taking steps to leave the abusive relationship. The survey showed that:

  • 48% of respondents feared that the abusive partner would harm or kill the pets;
  • 37% reported that the abusive partner had already threatened to harm or kill pets; and
  • 29% said pets had already been harmed or killed.

This shows that a partner who is abusive will use the love and care that a survivor has for their pets to control their actions. It also highlights the importance of keeping pets safe during an abusive relationship, and how the safety of pets is also a crucial part of a survivor’s safety plan.

While it is important to include pets and animals in your safety plan, many survivors also worry about the well-being of their pets when they are considering leaving their abusive relationship. The same survey found that:

  • 97% of respondents said that keeping their pets with them is an important factor in deciding whether to seek shelter;
  • 91% indicated that their pets’ emotional support and physical protection are significant in their ability to survive and heal; and
  • 72% of respondents were not aware that some domestic violence shelters accept pets. (Currently, only about 250 shelters in the U.S. are pet-friendly and many others have foster care arrangements for pets.)

Pets are an important part of our families, and therefore need to be taken into consideration when someone is planning to leave an abusive relationship. That is why we want people to know that there are organizations that can offer support and care for pets in a domestic violence situation.

The Animal Welfare Institute offers a database of programs that are safe havens for pets of individuals who are experiencing domestic violence. They offer resources based on people’s zip code, so you can see if there is a program near you that offers shelter and safety for people with pets and animals. You can also reach out to The Hotline 24/7 to speak with an advocate about the options available when you have pets, as well as how to include them in your safety planning.

The People and Animals Living Safely (PALS) survey, implemented in partnership with URI’s PALS program, highlights the important role that pets and animals play in a survivor’s experience leaving an abusive situation and their journey to healing. You can read more about their findings and watch a webinar discussing the results here.

URI’s short film, “When I Close My Eyes,” also spotlights the power of the human-animal bond in the experience of domestic violence.

If you have questions or need support around safety planning with pets, text “START” to 88788, call our hotline at 1.800.799.7233, or chat with an advocate.

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