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An Online Resource Library on Gender-Based Violence.

Abuse of Animals and Domestic Violence: A National Survey of Shelters for Women who are Battered

General Material

The journal article presents an overview of research on the association of animal abuse and domestic violence, the association of child witnesses to domestic violence and animal abuse, and the likelihood of women seeking shelter from battering to have witnessed their partner's abuse of companion animals. The article describes the survey's methods and results and caveats. It concludes with implications and questions to consider for domestic violence programs, animal welfare organizations, and children's services.

The researchers used NCADV's National Directory of Domestic Violence programs to select and survey per state the largest shelter (number of people it can house overnight at one time) that had children's counseling programs. The survey asked shelter personnel if women or children who come to shelter mention incidents of companion abuse. Shelter staff were asked to estimate the coexistence of domestic violence and companion animal abuse, if their program had any intake interview questions about companion animals, and if so what information was asked.

Findings include that 85.4% of shelters respondents said that women who enter their shelters talk about companion animal abuse and yet only 27.1% of those programs had intake interview questions concerning companion animals. Issues raised include that: more attention needs to be focused on cruelty to animals as an indicator of partner dangerousness or lethality; information about animal welfare in safety planning may be crucial for women who continue to live with their batterer; women may delay accessing shelter if it puts their companion animal at risk so partnering with animal shelters or veterinary clinics can be vital to achieving safety for all involved; and, children traumatized by witnessing domestic violence also may be traumatized by witnessing animal abuse.

This article is published in Vol. 5 No. 3, 1998 of the journal Society and Animals: Social Scientific Sudies of the Human Experience of Other Animals" published by the Psychologists For the Ethical Treatment of Animals.