Companion Animals

AWI promotes strong enforcement of laws to protect companion animals. We develop resources to help law enforcement officials prosecute animal abusers and help social service agencies address the relationship between animal cruelty and family violence.

According to the 2021-2022 National Pet Owners Survey, 70 percent of all US households include a companion animal. Pets not only provide love and affection—they may even help keep us well. Recent studies have linked pet ownership to lower blood pressure, reduced stress, less incidence of heart disease, and lower overall health care costs. In short, companion animals make us happier and healthier. So, it is only fair to keep them safe, healthy, and happy too.

Sadly, some companion animals are victims of cruelty and neglect. If you witness animal abuse, here are some tips on how individuals can safely report it. Law enforcement officials and social service agencies have a reporting role to play as well. It is important also to know that abuse of animals is often associated with domestic violence against people, and recognizing this link can lead to quicker and more effective intervention. AWI’s Animals and Family Violence initiative is bringing awareness to this link and, through its Safe Havens for Pets project, helping both animals and people escape to safety.

Companion horses may fall victim to another sort of abuse, when they are transported under inhumane conditions to be callously slaughtered outside the country. Find out about AWI’s efforts to end transportation of all horses in double-deck trailers, as well as AWI’s efforts to ban the slaughter of American horses.

And remember: When acquiring a pet, consider the source. Puppy mills and kitten mills churn out expensive purebreds while keeping their breeding animals confined in squalid conditions. Meanwhile, shelters are overrun with dogs and cats who deserve a good home. Birds are another popular pet, but the bird trade is poorly regulated—allowing for low welfare mass-breeding facilities and continued extraction from the wild at heavy cost to wild populations. Rather than purchasing a bird from a pet store or private breeder, see if your local animal shelter or bird rescue has birds who need adopting.

The allure of exotic pets such as primates or big cats may be tempting, but even if bred in captivity, these animals are still wild in nature—and wild nature is where they belong. Private homes are ill equipped to meet their instinctual needs, and as they go from cute babies to full-grown adults, many end up locked away in cages. After suffering years of such neglect, a fortunate few may end up in sanctuaries and a better life. Overall, the trade in wild animals, be it for pets or otherwise, is notorious for its cruelty and negative effects on vulnerable species.

Finally, it is important to attend to companion animal needs—not only when we are at home, but also when we are away. Whatever the species, we have to plan for their care when we travel—whether they come along or stay behind with a petsitter. When a family decides to travel with their pets by air, they want to know that the pet will be safe. Click here to learn about some of the issues associated with taking pets on planes. And when emergencies or natural disasters strike, most families will not want to leave their companion animals behind and unprotected. It is therefore important to take pets into account as part of the family’s emergency preparedness planning.

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