Victims of domestic violence are not always human.
Companion animals, not necessarily in the direct line of fire, are
frequent victims in the cycle of abuse as well. Believing that pets are
sentient, it is easy to see why so many of them, once beloved and
cherished, end up in animal shelters long before their loved ones check
into battered women shelters. The confusion, neglect, abandonment and
abuse all lead to enormous stress levels visited upon gentle animals.
Battered women shelter workers report that frequently, a woman will call
during a few stolen moments when she can risk a phone call, and ask to
come in to the shelter. Of course she can, but if she asks to bring her
constant companion, her dog or cat, she is told that she cannot. She is
left with a heartbreaking decision....should she leave and save herself
and her children, but putting her pet in danger; or should she stay and
protect the animal, putting herself and her children in more danger?
These are tough questions, and humane societies around the country need
to find a way to answer the call. Perhaps setting up a special fund, as
one shelter in Florida did, and using the money to pay for boarding for
animals of women forced into shelters. The women will have peace of mind
knowing that their animals are, for the time being, safely away from a
tormentor that frequently uses the threat of hurting that which she
loves as a means of "getting even" with her. Consider the following
Animals have feelings and emotions. Their nerves get frazzled, loyalties
get misplaced. This can lead to aggressive and/or destructive behavior
as well as skin and internal disorders. Psychological disorders such as
loss of appetite, intermittent rage, lick sores, fouling of home
quarters, excessive barking and howling are a result of mixed messages
and inconsistent training. The animal is a target for abuse as his
behavior deteriorates in response to the tension around him. Instead of
understanding and patience, he is punished.
Isolation, routine interruption and loss of attention are caused by the
victims' refocus on pressing family matters. The focus at this time is
on the needs of the humans, not the animals. If the animals' caregiver
is being abused, this filters down to the animal, The human victim is
suffering from depression and the animal becomes a burden to a
clinically depressed person.
Unfortunate animals are turned over to others, or worse, turned out
because of undesirable behaviors or medical problems that are direct or
proximate cause of the abuse. It becomes a vicious cycle.
The animal is more available to ALL family members to vent their
frustrations upon as they try to cope with their miserable situations.
The animal becomes the target of abuse by frustrated family members.
If a woman is battered by the husband, he may also be
hitting the kids, kicking the dog and throwing the cat against the wall.
Battered women's shelters can and do take care of the mother and child,
humane societies need to find a way to care for the sad, confused
companion animals that are the victims of domestic abuse. Private foster
homes may also be an answer. Those wanting to help can call a local
domestic violence shelter and offer their home as a "safe place" for an
animal to stay should a woman need to go to a shelter. Domestic violence
affects everyone, especially those who cannot talk about the pain.
Go on to U.S.
Congresspersons Champion Spay/Neuter Stamp
Return to 28 July 1999 Issue
Return to Newsletters
** Fair Use Notice**
This document may contain copyrighted material, use of which has not been
specifically authorized by the copyright owners. I believe that this
not-for-profit, educational use on the Web constitutes a fair use of the
copyrighted material (as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright
Law). If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your
own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright