September 22, 2019

Domestic Violence & Animal Abuse

The Many Victims of Domestic Violence: Abuse Within the Home Includes Animal Cruelty

“Animal cruelty is usually the earliest warning of dysfunction within a household…Essentially, in this country, animals are members of the family…and if violence is the norm in that family, animals can often be placed in mortal danger.”1

Current research has definitively shown this link between domestic abuse and animal cruelty.  For example, an overwhelming majority of large shelters for battered women and children indicate that victims seeking refuge at that shelter report pet abuse.2  In a recent court case in West Virginia, a doctor who specializes in the link between animal abuse and domestic violence told the court, “70 to 88% of women at battered women’s shelters report their partners killed or threatened to hurt a pet.”3

Victims of domestic violence may not report abuse against them or seek shelter if they cannot ensure the protection of their pets in the process.  Law enforcement agencies are starting to understand the correlation between animal abuse and domestic violence and provide training to their officers on the connection.  The Florida Office of the Attorney General recently conducted a training entitled: “Understanding the Correlation between Animal Cruelty and Domestic Violence.”  Topics covered included “Dynamics of the Care and Mistreatment of Animals within Individuals and Families with a History of Violence”; “Typologies of Animal Abuse Among Juvenile and Adult Offenders”; “Threat Assessment and Intervention Options in Cases of Animal Abuse and its Correlation in Lethality in Domestic Violence Situations”; and “Community and Agency Responses and the Advantages of Cooperation Between Animal and Human Service Groups.”

Organizations such as the Humane Society campaign to raise public awareness about the connection between domestic violence and animal abuse by offering workshops and educational materials on the subject.  The web site for the Humane Society’s First Strike campaign is

In Florida, the Humane Society sponsors “Safe Haven” programs for animals.  For more information on the Miami program, contact Melanie Otero, Public Relations Director of Project Safe Families/Safe Pets at or at (305) 696-0800.

For additional information and materials on the connection between domestic violence and animal abuse, check out the following resources:

Please remember: It is up to each of us to stop the cycle of violence and to protect those who cannot protect themselves.

1 “Animal House” Newsday New York (July 2006).

2 “The Abuse of Animals and Domestic Violence” Frank Ascione (1997).

3 “Beyond Violence: Campaign News.” Doris Day Animal Foundation (August 2005).

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