We’re protecting animals from family violence. Domestic violence crimes against companion animals are often violent, egregious acts of cruelty, including setting pets on fire, throwing them off balconies, and beating or killing them in front of children. Victims of family violence are often left in a position of deciding whether to stay in an abusive, often dangerous situation, or to go and leave behind their beloved pets.
Victims of domestic violence know that leaving their pets behind puts them at even greater risk of abuse once the victims are gone. Animals are often used by the abuser to punish or manipulate, as well as to take revenge against, the victim. In Ohio, women are the caregivers of pets in 74.5% of pet-owning households. Ohio is home to 2,730,000 dogs and 3,786,000 cats (the American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that 57.4% of Ohio households have pets – or 2,677,000 pet-owning households) and cruelty to pets is a common way to punish and control a victim of domestic violence (more than 64 million households in this country have one or more companion animals – Randour & Davidson, 2008). Likewise, the victim and/or their children living in a violent family situation have considerable attachments to their pets; and traumatic suffering can result when pets are abused or killed.
In the In Harm’s Way and the 2012 Survey reports, produced by the Ohio Domestic Violence Network (ODVN), 79% of the domestic violence victims surveyed identified the need for pet support for victims; and over 40% reported their pets were killed, harmed, or threatened to be harmed, and that they believed their pets would be harmed if the victims left home without them. Many victims clearly stated in these reports that pet safety impacted their decision whether to leave an abusive home. This inability to leave puts women, children, and pets at greater risk of exposure to emotional and physical trauma and death. The threat, or actual use, of violence against family pets is part of the dynamic of family violence–a dynamic that includes not only the victim and batterer, but also the children, elderly relatives, and the family pets.
OAA helps families find pet protection programs to get pets away from abusers. OAA provides information and advice to help at-risk family members in safety planning for their pet(s). The Pet Protection Resources page lists directories that provide pet protective programs based on state and zip codes. OAA will also advocate for policies that address family violence, such as Ohio’s House Bill (HB) 33, which addresses the need for cross-reporting animal and human violence. HB 33 builds on the legal tools created by the passage of pet protective orders, felony cruelty, and bestiality laws in Ohio that assist animals impacted by family violence.