Facts About Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence


In association with the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

I promised a companion article to Dogs for Vets: a great idea, but screening Vets for Pets is also important that would stress the importance of ensuring anyone, not only combat Veterans, who is considering getting such a trained animal must be screened.

It has taken a while to put this story together, because just going through the images was heartbreaking if one is a dog lover.  I’ve used only two such images to make points, and these are the least offensive. The problem is THAT BAD.

I also feel it important that Veterans be screened before getting such animals based on personal experience. While observing a PTSD rap session at the Dayton VAMC, one Vet brought his companion dog in to be a sort of break the ice  with the group that I found commendable, however another Vet talked about how he still enjoyed killing small animals in his backyard. This guy was wheelchair bound and that angry still – he was a Vietnam Vet.

Before what I said gets twisted into a swift boat attack on me saying all Disabled Vietnam Vets still get a thrill out of killing things THAT is not what I’m saying. One Vet whom I witnessed say he liked killing small animals needs more help than any PTSD rap session is going to give him or her.

What I am saying is that the last person I would give a rescue or companion dog is to someone who tells a group of people publicly that they still get a thrill out of killing small animals. THAT is why anyone with anger issues must think twice, no ten times, to ensure WE get those anger issues under control BEFORE seeking or getting a dog of any kind. THAT is why it is extremely important that everyone be screened BEFORE getting such an animal, especially if the dog is trained – most organizations do just that given the cost involved.

I also got the idea for this article from a brochure that I picked up from of all places the Wright-Patterson AFB Mental Health Clinic. The brochure was titled, “VICTIMS without VOICE: Animal Abuse and Family Violence.”

Readers if the incidents of animal abuse related to domestic violence within the military community were not a problem that brochure would never have been in a military mental health facility.

Once again I want to stress that this article IS NOT solely directed at Veterans or Military Families, but reflects facts within our American society as a whole. That said, we Veterans, Troops, and Military Families are but a reflection of the overall society that we serve and defend.

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The bulk of this information comes from the American Humane Society.

Robert L. Hanafin, Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired, VT News

VICTIMS without VOICE: Why it Matters

  • 71% of pet-owning women entering women’s shelters reported that their batterer had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control them; 32% reported their children had hurt or killed animals. [1]
  • 68% of battered women reported violence towards their animals. 87% of these incidents occurred in the presence of the women, and 75% in the presence of the children, to psychologically control and coerce them. [2]
  • 13% of intentional animal abuse cases involve domestic violence. [3]
  • Between 25% and 40% of battered women are unable to escape abusive situations because they worry about what will happen to their pets, should they leave. [4,5,6]
  • Pets may suffer unexplained injuries, health problems, permanent disabilities such as the dog at right with a broken jaw and disfigured by being yanked off the ground by his collar and kicked at the hands of abusers, or disappear from home. [7]
  • Abusers kill, harm, or threaten children’s pets to coerce them into sexual abuse or to force them to remain silent about abuse. Disturbed children kill or harm animals to emulate their parents’ conduct, to prevent the abuser from killing the pet, or to take out their aggressions on another victim. [8,9]
  • In one study, 70% of animal abusers also had records for other crimes. Domestic violence victims whose animals were abused saw the animal cruelty as one more violent episode in a long history of indiscriminate violence aimed at them and their vulnerability. [10]
  • Investigation of animal abuse is often the first point of social services intervention for a family in trouble. [4]
  • For many battered women, pets are sources of comfort providing strong emotional support: 98% of Americans consider pets to be companions or members of the family. [11]
  • Animal cruelty problems are people problems. When animals are abused, people are at risk. [12]

Did You Know?

  • More American households have pets than have children. We spend more money on pet food than on baby food. There are more dogs in the U.S. than people in most countries in Europe – and more cats than dogs. [13]
  • A child growing up in the U.S. is more likely to have a pet than a live-at-home father. [14]
  • Pets live most frequently in homes with children: 64.1% of homes with children under age 6, and 74.8% of homes with children over age 6, have pets. The woman is the primary caregiver in 72.8% of pet-owning households. [11]
  • Battered women have been known to live in their cars with their pets for as long as four months until an opening was available at a pet-friendly safe house. [15]

State Animal Cruelty Laws

Anti-cruelty laws exist in all U.S. states and territories to prohibit unnecessary killing, mutilating, torturing, beating, neglecting and abandoning animals, or depriving them of proper food, water or shelter. Animal cruelty cases may be investigated by a local humane society, SPCA or animal control agency or, in areas where these organizations are not present, by police or sheriff’s departments. When an investigation uncovers enough evidence to warrant prosecution, charges may be filed by the local district or state’s attorney. Often, only the most serious cases generate sufficient sympathy and evidence to warrant prosecution, and gaining convictions may be very difficult. [16,17]

If You Need Help

Contact your local humane society, SPCA, animal control agency, or veterinarian to see if they have temporary foster care facilities for pets belonging to battered women.

What You Can Do

  • Have your pets vaccinated against rabies, and license your pets with your town or county: make sure these registrations are in your name to help prove your ownership.
  • Consider and plan for the safety and welfare of your animals. Do not leave pets with your abuser. Be prepared to take your pets with you: many women’s shelters have established “safe haven” foster care programs for the animal victims of domestic violence.
  • Alternatively, arrange temporary shelter for your pets with a veterinarian, family member, trusted friend, or local animal shelter.

What Advocates Can Do For Battered Women With Pets

  • Add questions about the presence of pets and their welfare to shelter intake questionnaires and risk assessments.
  • Work with animal shelters, veterinarians, and rescue groups to establish “safe haven” foster care programs for the animal victims of domestic violence; some women’s shelters are building kennels at their facilities.
  • Include provisions for pets in safety planning strategies.
  • Help your clients to prove ownership of their animals.
  • Help victims to retrieve animals left behind.
  • Include animals in abuse prevention orders.
  • Help victims find pet-friendly transitional and permanent housing.
  • When victims can no longer care for their pets, make referrals to animal adoption agencies.
  • Establish community coalitions against family violence that include humane societies, SPCAs, animal control agencies, and veterinarians. Invite representatives from these agencies to train your staff on how animal abuse cases are investigated and prosecuted: offer to train their staffs and volunteers about domestic violence issues.


Arkow, P. (2003). Breaking the Cycles of Violence: A Guide to Multi-disciplinary Interventions. A Handbook for Child Protection, Domestic Violence and Animal Protection Agencies. Alameda, CA: Latham Foundation.

Ascione, F.R. (2000). Safe Havens for Pets: Guidelines for Programs Sheltering Pets for Women Who Are Battered. Logan, UT: Utah State University. [email protected]

Ascione, F.R., & Arkow, P. (eds.) (1999). Child Abuse, Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse: Linking the Circles of Compassion for Prevention and Intervention. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1999.

Duel, Debra (2004). Violence Prevention & Intervention: A Directory of Animal-Related Programs. Washington, DC: Humane Society of the U.S.

Maxwell, M. S. & O’Rourke, K. (2000). Domestic Violence: A Competency-Based Training Manual for Florida’s Animal Abuse Investigators. Tallahassee: Florida State University Institute for Family Violence Studies.

National Crime Prevention Council (2003). 50 Strategies to Prevent Violent Domestic Crimes: Screening Animal Cruelty Cases for Domestic Violence. Washington, DC.

For a bibliography of “Link” materials: please see www.animaltherapy.net/Bibliography-Link.html

Sources (as of 7-19-06)

[1] Ascione, F.R., Weber, C. V. & Wood, D. S. (1997). The abuse of animals and domestic violence: A national survey of shelters for women who are battered. Society & Animals 5(3), 205-218.

[2] Quinlisk, J.A. (1999). Animal Abuse and Family Violence. In, Ascione, F.R. & Arkow, P., eds.: Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, and Animal Abuse: Linking the Circles of Compassion for Prevention and Intervention. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, pp. 168-175.

[3] Humane Society of the U.S. (2001). 2000 Report of Animal Cruelty Cases. Washington, DC.

[4] Arkow, P. (2003). Breaking the cycles of violence: A guide to multi-disciplinary interventions. A handbook for child protection, domestic violence and animal protection agencies. Alameda, CA: Latham Foundation.

[5] McIntosh, S. (2001). Calgary research results: Exploring the links between animal abuse and domestic violence. The Latham Letter 22(4), 14-16.

[6] Arkow, P. (1994). Animal abuse and domestic violence: Intake statistics tell a sad story. Latham Letter 15(2), 17.

[7] Jorgensen, S. & Maloney, L. (1999). Animal abuse and the victims of domestic violence. In, F.R. Ascione & P. Arkow, eds.: Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, and Animal Abuse: Linking the Circles of Compassion for Prevention and Intervention. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, pp. 143-158.

[8] Loar, L. (1999). “I’ll only help you if you have two legs,” or, Why human services professionals should pay attention to cases involving cruelty to animals. In, Ascione, F.R. & Arkow, P., eds.: Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, and Animal Abuse: Linking the Circles of Compassion for Prevention and Intervention. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1999, pp. 120-136.

[9] Ascione, F.R. (2005). Children and Animals: Exploring the Roots of Kindness and Cruelty. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2005.

[10] Luke, C., Arluke, A., & Levin, J. (1998). Cruelty to Animals and Other Crimes: A Study by the MSPCA and Northeastern University. Boston: MSPCA.

[11] American Veterinary Medical Association (2003): U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook. Schaumburg, IL: AVMA.

[12] Arkow, P. (1996). The relationships between animal abuse and other forms of family violence. Family Violence & Sexual Assault Bulletin 12(1-2), 29-34.

[13] American Pet Products Manufacturers Association: Industry Statistics & Trends (http://www.appma.org/); Baby Food & Drink US (http://www.marketresearch.com/); Annie E. Casey Foundation/Kids Count Census Data Online (http://www.aecf.org/)

[14] Melson, G.F. (2001). Why the Wild Things Are: Animals in the Lives of Children. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

[15] Kogan, L.R., McConnell, S., Schoenfeld-Tacher, R., & Jansen-Lock, P. (2004). Crosstrails: A unique foster program to provide safety for pets of women in safehouses. Violence Against Women 10, 418-434.

[16] Lacroix, C. A. (1999). Another weapon for combating family violence: Prevention of animal abuse. In, F.R. Ascione & P. Arkow, eds.: Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, and Animal Abuse: Linking the Circles of Compassion for Prevention and Intervention. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, pp. 62-80.

[17] Frasch, P. D., Otto, S. K., Olsen, K. M., & Ernest, P. A. (1999). State animal anti-cruelty statutes: An overview. Animal Law 5, 69-80.

Understanding The Link® Between Animal Abuse and Family Violence

A correlation between animal abuse, family violence and other forms of community violence has been established. Child and animal protection professionals have recognized this link, noting that abuse of both children and animals is connected in a self-perpetuating cycle of violence. When animals in a home are abused or neglected, it is a warning sign that others in the household may not be safe. In addition, children who witness animal abuse are at a greater risk of becoming abusers themselves.

Simply put the image at right IS NOT how a dog is trained to assist or love anyone. If readers notice any animal being treated this way by yanking them off the ground by a chain or collar THAT IS NOT TRAINING.

How Serious Is It?

A survey of pet-owning families with substantiated child abuse and neglect found that animals were abused in 88 percent of homes where child physical abuse was present (DeViney, Dickert, & Lockwood, 1983). A study of women seeking shelter at a safe house showed that 71 percent of those having pets affirmed that their partner had threatened, hurt or killed their companion animals, and 32 percent of mothers reported that their children had hurt or killed their pets (Ascione, 1998). Still another study showed that violent offenders incarcerated in a maximumsecurity prison were significantly more likely than nonviolent offenders to have committed childhood acts of cruelty toward pets (Merz-Perez, Heide, & Silverman, 2001).

What’s Being Done?

In many communities, human services, animal services and law enforcement agencies are sharing resources and expertise to address violence. Professionals are beginning to engage in crosstraining and cross-reporting through inter-agency partnerships. Humane societies are also teaming with domestic violence shelters to provide emergency shelter for pets of domestic violence victims. In addition, some states have strengthened their animal-cruelty legislation and taken other measures to address The Link. These state-level actions permit earlier intervention and send a clear message that all forms of violence are taken seriously. For example:

  • There are now felony-level penalties for animal cruelty in nearly all states.
  • Several states require veterinarians to report suspected animal abuse and offer veterinarians who report cruelty immunity from civil and criminal liability.
  • Some states require animal control officers to report suspected child abuse or neglect and receive training in recognizing and reporting child abuse and neglect.
  • A few states permit child and adult protection workers to report suspected animal abuse or receive training on identifying and reporting animal cruelty, abuse and neglect.
  • Nearly half the states call for psychological counseling for individuals convicted of animal cruelty.

Where Does American Humane Stand?

American Humane has been working to protect children and animals since 1877. For more than a decade, American Humane has been educating both the general public and professionals about The Link between violence to people and animals by:

  • Facilitating workshops to educate the public and build collaboration among human service, animal protection, public safety and law enforcement professionals;
  • Operating the National Resource Center on The Link, providing professional training at national conferences and publishing resources and training guides;
  • Helping pass animal cruelty legislation, drafting cross-reporting legislation and testifying at both state and national levels; and
  • Contributing to the understanding of The Link through research on animal cruelty, its treatment in the criminal justice system and detection by veterinarians.

American Humane asserts that The Link must be addressed and the following provisions must be implemented:

  • Cross-training and cross-reporting among law enforcement officers, humane investigators, veterinarians, health professionals, domestic violence advocates and child protection workers;
  • Training and continuing education about The Link for judges and prosecutors;
  • Model legislation for cross-reporting and crossreporting standards;
  • Systematic tracking of national animal abuse data;
  • Expanded research about The Link, including evaluation of prevention and intervention approaches;
  • Inclusion of animal-focused violence in standard assessments and intake forms for child protective services, mental health and domestic violence workers; and
  • Community partnerships to respond to family violence and educate the public about taking all acts of violence seriously.


Ascione, F. R. (1998). Battered women’s reports of their partners’ and their children’s cruelty to animals. Journal of Emotional Abuse, 1(1), 119-133.

DeViney, E., Dickert, J., & Lockwood, R. (1998). The care of pets within child abusing families. In R. Lockwood & F.R. Ascione, (Eds.), Cruelty to animals and interpersonal violence. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press. (Reprinted from International Journal for the Study of Animal Problems, 4, (1983) 321-329.)

Merz-Perez, L., Heide, K. M., & Silverman, I. J. (2001). Childhood cruelty to animals and subsequent violence against humans. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 45(5), 556- 573.


American Humane’s National Resource Center on the Link. www.americanhumane.org/link or (800) 227-4645.

Ascione, F. R. (2001). Animal abuse and youth violence. OJJDP Juvenile Justice Bulletin.

Ascione, F. R., & Arkow, P. (Eds.). (1999). Child abuse, domestic violence, and animal abuse: Linking the circles of compassion for prevention and intervention. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press.

Barnard, S. (1999). Taking animal abuse seriously: A human services perspective. In F. R. Ascione & P. Arkow (Eds.), Child abuse, domestic violence, and animal abuse: Linking the circles of compassion for prevention and intervention (pp. 101-108). West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press.

Boat, B. W. (1999). Abuse of children and abuse of animals: Using the links to inform child assessment and protection. In F. R. Ascione & P. Arkow (Eds.), Child abuse, domestic violence, and animal abuse: Linking the circles of compassion for prevention and intervention (pp. 83-100). West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press.

Lockwood, R., & Ascione, F. R. (Eds.). (1998). Cruelty to animals and interpersonal violence: Readings in research and application. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press.

PSYETA AniCare and AniCare Child models of treatment of animal abuse. http://www.psyeta.org/

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