Professional Tools and Trainings: The Link

photo by Drazen

Our team members are well-versed in the link between animal maltreatment and human violence. We welcome the opportunity to provide tools and training for other organizations. To request our services, please complete this Training Request Form.

The following resources offer guidance to help human services and animal welfare professionals understand the link between animal cruelty and interpersonal violence, recognize interconnected signs of abuse, and take action to protect both people and animals.

Signs of Animal Abuse

If you are visiting a family with pets and observe signs of abuse and neglect, ask questions about the pet(s). Moreover, if pets are not visible but there are clear indications that pets reside in or outside the home, ask about the pets. For example, “It appears you have pets. Where do they usually stay? Who takes care of them? How long have you had them?” For more info, see AWI’s Signs of Animal Abuse and Neglect
If what you observe or are told causes concern for the well-being of the pet, assess whether the family would be open to suggestion, such as “Your dog looks very thin. A lot of things could account for that. Has he been to see a vet recently?” If not open to suggestion, or if questioning the family would be unsafe, report your concerns to law enforcement, animal control, or your local animal cruelty hotline.

Asking Children about Their Relationship with Animals

Identifying animal abuse in the home can be the first opportunity to save an animal and intervene with a family at risk. When speaking with children, it is advisable to ask them questions about their experience with pets and other animals. By asking about animals in the home, family violence can be identified earlier, making intervention more likely to succeed and safeguarding children, pets, and their families. For more info, see AWI’s Asking Children About Pets.

When Children Witness Animal Abuse in the Home

Children may witness violence in the home, such as the abuse of one parent by another, of a grandparent by another adult or of the family pet. Children who witness abuse are at greater risk for becoming either victims or perpetrators. One form of abuse that children too often witness is toward the pet in family violence situations. When there is knowledge that a child has witnessed animal abuse, information should be obtained from the child or his or her caretaker. For questions to ask, see AWI’s When Children Witness Animal Abuse.

Children who witness violence should be evaluated by a mental health professional and a treatment plan developed. Most trained mental health professionals have the necessary skills and training to do this; however, they must be aware of the need to ask questions directly about the child either witnessing or engaging in animal abuse.

Safety Planning for Survivors with Pets

Up to 48% of survivors report that they delay leaving a dangerous situation because they have no way to keep their pet safe if they leave. Including pets when safety planning will help survivors and advocates address this barrier so that people and pets can seek safety. For more info, see AWI’s Safety Planning for Pets. This tool can be used by survivors and/or their advocates.

Cross-Reporting and Cross-Training

Recognizing the relationship between child abuse and animal abuse, some states have passed cross reporting laws or are considering doing so (please see the tables below for details). It is important that human services professionals are trained to recognize and report signs of animal abuse, and that animal service agents be taught to look for signs of child abuse. AWI is dedicated to advancing this effort. Please check back soon for additional recommendations and training tools.

CPS/DHS/Social Workers Mandated: Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Louisiana, Nebraska, Tennessee, West Virginia
CPS/ DHS/ Social Workers Permitted: California, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon
Adult Protective Services Mandated: Louisiana, Nebraska, Tennessee, West Virginia
Adult Protective Services Permitted: California

Resources for Current and Aspiring Safe Havens for Pets

Safe havens for pets are sheltering services available to help individuals experiencing domestic violence place their companion animals out of harm's way so that they may seek safety for themselves. Safe havens for pets operate differently from one community to another. AWI has identified resources for those needing a safe place for companion animals, or those who are interested in developing a safe haven program in their community. Please visit Safe Havens for Pets for research, resources, and funding recommendations. 

Connect with other Safe Havens for Pets
At AWI and Safe Havens for Pets, we believe professional collaboration is essential to successfully serving people and their pets. Please consider following Safe Havens for Pets on Facebook and joining our Safe Havens for Pets Partnership Facebook group. This private group is intended to facilitate the discussion of shared goals in relation to supporting domestic violence survivors and their animals. If you volunteer, work, or otherwise advocate for domestic violence survivors and their pets, we hope you will join us.