Animals & Family Violence

According to the 2013-2014 National Pet Owners Survey 68% of all U.S. households—82.5 million homes—include a companion animal. In most cases these companions are cherished members of the family. When there is violence in the home, however, it can be directed at the pets, as well as the partners and children who live there. Pet abuse is one of the forms of intimidation listed in the "power and control wheel" used by advocates for victims of domestic violence. (The power and control wheel—which has been translated into 40 languages—was developed based on the experiences of battered women. The wheel identifies and categorizes the typical actions a perpetrator uses against his or her victim.)

Experts estimate that from 48% to 71% of battered women have pets who also have been abused or killed. In fact, pet abuse is one of four significant predictors for who will become a batterer.

Domestic violence affects companion animalsIn the past 20 years, many programs and policies have arisen in reaction to this overlap between domestic violence and animal abuse. Communities throughout the United States are organizing safe havens for pets. In addition to these safe havens, 29 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico now have laws that permit the inclusion of pets on protection orders. Another demonstration of the close association between animal abuse and family violence is the development of safety planning for pets and the growing practice at domestic violence shelters to ask questions at intake about pets who might need protection. Moreover, the children of domestic violence victims often are at higher risk or becoming either victims or perpetrators themselves. Click here for a PDF version of A Common Bond: Maltreated Children and Animals in the Home, a booklet containing guidelines for human service personnel in dealing with pets, domestic violence, and children.

Recognizing this connection between family violence and animal abuse, the Animal Welfare Institute actively pursues partnerships with other organizations to offer resources, programs, and policies that address this important relationship. AWI works collaboratively with other groups that address interpersonal violence, e.g., the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Ahimsa House, National Network to End Domestic Violence, National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Click here for a PDF version of "Protecting Domestic Violence Victims by Protecting Their Pets," an article featured in the Spring 2010 issue of Juvenile & Family Justice Today, a publication of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. Since the publication of this article, 15 more states, for a total of 28, have passed laws allowing courts to provide for companion animals in orders of protection. Click here for a list of current state laws that address pets in protection orders. Click here for state manuals that aid attorneys and advocates for domestic violence victims with including companion animals on protection orders.