National Pet Month: Protecting domestic violence survivors
Where does the pet go in the middle of a domestic violence dispute?
On average, approximately 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. In a year’s time, that’s more than 10 million women and men. And this isn’t stranger danger—one in four women and one in nine women are the victims of intimate partner physical violence, sexual violence or stalking.
Unfortunately, I can count on at least two hands both girls and women who I’ve personally known that were injured, raped, molested, dealt with post-traumatic stress disorder and even had to move to get away from stalkers. These statistics are not new to me.
In one survey, 71% of domestic violence victims reported that their abuser also targeted pets.
What I’d never considered while occasionally researching and writing about this topic was how pets were affected by this. In fact, even as a three-time dog owner and two-year dog walker, it didn’t come up. Why? Every domestic violence survivor I knew was not a pet owner. I just never linked the two. It finally clicked to me that these two could be connected after opening my latest issue of Good Housekeeping magazine and glancing at the last page. I noticed a Purina ad for the Purple Leash Project.
With 70% of U.S. households (90.5 million families) owning a pet, it makes absolute sense to me (now) that these two groups would cross paths. And even if you’re not a pet owner, if you know a pet owner, you know how they feel about their dogs and cats. No one wants to leave their pets with an abusive partner.
The Humane Society reports that “intentional cruelty to animals is strongly correlated with other crimes, including violence against people.” Dogs, cats, horses and livestock are the animals that are most often reported as being abused. And in one survey, 71% of domestic violence victims reported that their abuser also targeted pets. They threatened, injured or killed the pets as a revenge or control tactic, or to force the victim to return home.
Unfortunately, domestic violence shelters largely don’t accept pets. For that reason, nearly half of victims stay in abusive situations rather than leave their pet behind. The Purple Leash Project is trying to change this. By buying certain Purina products, consumers can help domestic violence survivors and their pets to:
Award grants to help shelters become pet-friendly.
Recruit volunteers to help create pet-friendly spaces at shelters.
Increase awareness of the issue.
Provide training and resources to domestic violence shelters.
Help find shelter for pets and their pet owners on SafePlaceforPets.org.
Although National Pet Month is coming to an end in less than a week, victims of domestic violence and domestic violence survivors could use your help year round. Donate. Volunteer. Get the word out.
Majority of Shamontiel’s “Black Girl In a Doggone World” posts are behind a paywall. This post is not, and I hope that readers link and share it with all of their friends and family. I am not a partner, an affiliate nor do I make any marketing dollars from Purina or RedRover. This was written solely to spread the word to help pet owners and to fight against domestic violence.
Shamontiel is a dog lover to her core: 500 completed walks with 84 dogs, eight dog-housesittings and six dog boardings at the time of this publication.
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