The role of companion animals in domestic violence

Escrito por Utrecht University.


Regarding violence to animals within the context of domestic violence, previous studies reveal that 71% of pet-owning women entering women’s shelters reported that their batterer had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control victims;  32% reported their children had hurt or killed animals. 68% of battered women reported violence towards their animals. 87% of these incidents occurred in the presence of the women, and 75% in the presence of the children, to psychologically control and coerce them.  Mistreating animals is a warning sign that others in the household may not be safe.The Comission against Family and Gender Violence of the Primary Care Centers of Sant Cugat and Valldoreix is developing a Multidisciplinary Program to Attend Women victims of domestic violence and their companion animals following the SAF-T guidelines. We have established collaboration with SPCAs Fundación Altarriba and Cau Amic to offer shelter for their companion animals in case it is needed. For that purpose, we are asking screening key questions in the emergency room or in the facility where the woman reports violence. In a year-time, we have identified 30 women who lived animals, 76% of them reported the animal being abused as well. In two cases, the abuser chose the breed (german shepherd and bull terrier) and left the animal with the woman when he left home. These dogs were poorly socialized and the women felt unable to positive-train them, in a parallel way to what was happening with their children which victimised the women in a way that was new for us. In one case it was necessary to shelter 3 dogs because the woman emergency shelter does not allow companion animals. For the 82% of the children/youngsters the companion animals were a source of comfort and love.  3 cases in which they abused animals where identified: a 8-year old child who is being abused by the father killed a companion fish and tried to kill a canary. He also presents enuresis, fascination for fire, self-harm and bullying. The two other are young women aged 19 and 21 diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.


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