According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Of those that make it to women’s shelters, 84 percent report that their abusers also hurt their animals. Sadly, only a tiny percentage of domestic violence shelters are equipped to handle pets. Lack of funding and facilities often limits their ability to accept animals. As a result, up to 40 percent of women in abusive situations choose to either stay with their abuser or live in a car.
Families need access to safe housing in times of crisis. A study by Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing shows that after access to shelter services, there is a 60-70 percent reduction in both the number and severity of assaults by abusers. Also, children need to be removed from violent, negative environments for their own mental health. Children may begin killing or maiming their own animals either in imitation of the abuse they witness or to protect the animal from more violent attacks. Removing children from such situations helps stop the cycle of continuing violence.
Because most Americans consider their animals to be a part of the family, they also need accommodations in places of refuge. In stressful situations, women and children may depend on the love and comfort provided by companion animals. Also, animals left behind are often killed or beaten by the abuser as a tool of control over other family members. Community awareness is needed to ensure that all members of the family have a safe place to turn to. Women’s shelters would benefit from donated kennels and other emergency housing for animals.
When you think about it…protecting pets in violent situations is necessary not only for the animals but also for the people who love them.