Protecting animal victims of domestic violence

Did you know that more than 40% of Canadian and American women will not leave an abusive situation if they have to leave their pets behind? This is because historically there has been a lack of protection for pets involved in domestic violence disputes. Thankfully, that is beginning to change.

Many states have adopted laws that provide protection for pets. Massachusetts was one of the first states to rule that pets could be protected under restraining orders, recognizing that there is a strong correlation between animal abuse and domestic violence. A dog named Panzer was the first animal to receive protection under this law — and it saved his life.

Another law that has been added to the books is one that defines an act of animal cruelty as domestic violence. Even if a person does not harm their partner or child, but harms the family pet, they can be charged with committing an act of domestic violence. Some states have the crime listed as a misdemeanor while others have it listed as a felony. For a full lists of states that enforce this law, visit the National Link Coalition’s website.

What are the solutions?

Creating and enforcing laws that protect pets is a good start, but more needs to be done to fully provide for domestic violence victims and their animal companions. One solution that many rescue organizations are implementing is foster care specifically for pet victims. This allows the person to leave a violent situation without fear that their pet will be harmed or killed. Many domestic violence victims have been alienated from their friends and family, and have no one who can take in their pet. Foster care is an invaluable help.

Most women’s shelters have had a no-pets policy, but slowly more and more are opening their doors to pets. An alarming statistic states that over 70% of women in shelters claim that their pets were abused. It’s not just people who need shelter and a safe place, but animal companions, as well. There is also a strong link between companion animals and emotional support; by having their pets with them, women and children can find the strength they need to survive.

Supporting organizations such as the Purple Leash Campaign, CK Animal Rescue, and Live Your Dream provide funding for human and animal survivors of domestic violence. What more can you do to help? Get involved with foster care, petition women’s shelters to allow companion animals, and report abuse when you see it. Short on time? Simply post a photo of your pet wearing purple on social media and use the hashtag #PurpleYourPet.