Animals and Interpersonal Violence

photo by Evrymmnt

In most cases, companion animals are cherished members of the family. However, there are situations in which pets are mistreated—in the home and in the community. Surveys of domestic violence survivors reveal that up to 89% report that their pets were threatened, harmed, or killed by their abuser. Research also indicates that animal abuse and other forms of family violence, such as child abuse, elder abuse, and sibling violence, frequently occur in the same household.

In the past 20 years, numerous programs and policies have been implemented to address this relationship between animal maltreatment and human violence. Throughout the United States, safe havens for pets offer shelter and resources for the companion animals of domestic violence survivors to better enable survivors to seek safety for themselves. In addition to these safe havens, 39 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico now have laws that permit the inclusion of pets on protection orders.

Research demonstrates that participation in animal cruelty is also associated with other criminal behavior, such as illegal drug activity, firearms, gambling, and assault. Recognizing this, in 2014 the Federal Bureau of Investigation added animal cruelty to its national crime database, the National Incident Based Reporting System. This database allows animal cruelty to be tracked throughout the country, so the association between animal cruelty and other crimes can be assessed, trends can be identified, and appropriate interventions can be designed to address animal cruelty committed at home and in the community. Such advances are possible thanks to community members and professionals who recognize and report animal cruelty.

AWI actively pursues partnerships with other organizations to offer resources, programs, and policies that address the important relationship between animal cruelty and other forms of violence. We work collaboratively with aligned groups, including the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the Battered Women’s Justice Project, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the National Organization for Victim Assistance, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline.