Tag Archives: domestic violence

Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse- Ken Shapiro

The Animals and Society Institute is a great organization for many reasons– one of which is their focus on providing specialized treatment for those convicted of animal abuse (their AniCare Program). Another is their long-standing focus on the interrelationships among different forms of violence.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month has just come to an end, but I wanted to share Dr. Shapiro’s latest blog post about the connections between animal abuse and domestic violence. Here is the link, and the text is below:

Paramedics initially responded to a recent report of a woman being bitten by a dog at an apartment in a dilapidated building in Queens, New York. Once there, the emergency responders witnessed a 29-year-old man physically assaulting his 28-year-old female partner. Police found evidence of animal cruelty and danger to four children, ages 7-11.

According to news reports, the children were placed in temporary custody in the city’s Administration for Children Services. The City Animal Care and Control removed and are caring for five dogs, 10 puppies, two boa constrictors and a lizard from the home.

Neighbors stated that they had called the police on several occasions to report that the couple was fighting but that the police had not responded. The landlord reported that the tenants owed him several thousand dollars for past rent and damages to the apartment.

As we near the end of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we return to a topic with which readers of the ASI Diary are familiar – the relationships between human violence and animal abuse. The above account of a recent incident illustrates several points worth noting.

Domestic violence and animal abuse typically occur in a dysfunctional family system. That system is complex, interweaving many factors and conditions: legal, cultural, economic, familial, intrapersonal and constitutional.

The relationships between human violence and animal abuse often are patterned in the form of a vicious cycle. Animal abuse is frequently used as a controlling device in dysfunctional domestic relationships. Abused animals are more likely to be aggressive toward humans. Children who are abused are more likely to abuse animals. Children who witness animal abuse or domestic violence are more likely to themselves to abuse animals and to bully classmates and future human partners. They are also prone to anxiety symptoms similar to those seen in post-traumatic stress disorder. 

These several intra- and extra-generational and -species relationships and others in the literature help explain the intransigence of violence and the necessity of dealing with it on various levels: educational, legal and psychotherapeutic, among others.

One other interesting point in the present incident is particularly telling for the issue of domestic violence. According to several newspaper accounts of the New York incident, the authorities failed to respond to earlier reports of domestic violence but did respond to the “dog bites woman” call for help. Apparently, despite considerable progress in the past few decades in recognizing domestic violence as a serious public health and legal issue, aggressive animals are considered a greater threat than aggressive humans. This is a disservice to the victims of domestic violence and a bad rap for the animals.

– Ken Shapiro

Such important food for thought– and for action!

“Allow pets in domestic violence shelters”- editorial

A great editorial piece in the The Register Citizen (Connecticut):


Why do victims of domestic violence stay in an abusive situation? According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, as many as 40 percent say that it’s in part due to “fear of what would happen if they left their pets behind.” It is common for an abuser to threaten to hurt or kill a beloved animal.

We know how strong the emotional bond between people and their pets can be. It is so strong that in far too many instances, women and men are putting themselves and their children at risk of physical and emotional abuse because of it.

Most pet owners look at the animal as a family member, so leaving that pet behind would be much like abandonment to them. Leaving them to the care of a person who has already acted out violently toward humans.

Across the country, a simple solution is in the works. Domestic violence shelters are beginning to accept pets.

“As we witnessed during Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, pets are members of the family and no one should have to make the impossible decision to leave them behind during times of crisis,” said Nathaniel Fields, president of the Urban Resource Institute, which recently created 10 pet-friendly apartments in a Brooklyn domestic abuse shelter.

There are similar shelters in 25 states, but surprisingly, this is the first and only one in New York City, and the Humane Society of the United States lists none in Connecticut.

It costs money to open up separate living spaces that can accommodate animals, but government and charitable dollars directed at domestic violence prevention would be well-spent on addressing this problem.

In a culture where, according to the American Pet Products Association, more than $55 billion will be spent on pet care and products this year, there should be an opportunity for the charities that run domestic violence shelters to raise funds to help the pets of these victims.

Add to that, pets can help in the healing process, as medical professionals increasingly look to pet therapy to lessen the effects of depression. Victims of abuse clearly have much emotional healing to deal with. Having their beloved four-legged family members at their side can obviously help that process.

Salon professionals and domestic violence

This is an absolutely amazing article! It talks about the role that hairstylists can play in helping victims of domestic violence. Many women have close relationships with the men and women they visit regularly for beauty care. As this article explains, it is helpful for these professionals to have resources at hand if their client confides in them about a violent relationship.

WONDERFUL article: http://www.kansas.com/2013/05/13/2799678/salon-professionals-can-be-relief.html

Also, there is a related organization called Cut It Out (http://www.cutitout.org/).

They are:

a program of the Salons Against Domestic Abuse Fund dedicated to mobilizing salon professionals and others to fight the epidemic of domestic abuse in communities across the United States. CUT IT OUT builds awareness of domestic abuse and trains salon professionals to recognize warning signs and safely refer clients to local resources.

These motivated, innovative professionals give me hope!

DV shelters, animal shelters

Research shows that many abused women are reluctant to leave their abuser if they cannot bring their family pet with them. The abuser uses this to his/her advantage: “If you leave me, I’ll kill the dog/cat/hamster/etc.” Unfortunately, most DV (domestic violence) shelters do not accept pets, and victims of abuse are therefore forced to choose: either I stay with my abuser, or I leave my pet behind to be killed or tortured.

Some DV shelters are now finding ways to bring women, children, and pets to safety. Realizing that pets are members of the family, DV shelters are linking up with pet shelters and foster programs to offer confidential protection for all victims of abuse. The United States is much further ahead than Canada in this regard.

I currently volunteer with an organization in Chicago called the Safety Network for Abused Animals and People (SNAAP): http://snaapchicago.org/Home.html. The organization was originally started in Washington D.C.: http://safeanimalssafepeople.org/index.html. My goal is to start a similar program in Toronto.

In Canada, there are only four programs (that I know of) that are dealing with “the link”:

  1. HAV-Link Coalition formed by Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region: http://www.wcswr.org/hav-human-animal-violence-link/
  2. Pet Safekeeping program at the Calgary Humane Society: http://www.calgaryhumane.ca/Page.aspx?pid=301
  3. Alberta Alliance for the Safety of Animals and People (AASAP) through the Alberta SPCA: http://www.albertaspca.org/neglect-abuse/cruelty-connection.html
  4. “The Violence Link” through the British Columbia S.P.C.A.: http://www.spca.bc.ca/cruelty/the-violence-link.html

For a list of combined domestic violence shelter + animal shelter programs (primarily in the USA), please take a look at these links: