Animal Abuse & Domestic Violence
Animal companions are often an important emotional resource for victims of domestic violence. Abusers may use the threat of violence against children and animals as a way of maintaining power and control over their victims. The threat of harm to a pet is sometimes used to prevent victims from reporting the violence or leaving their abuser. Perpetrators of this abuse directly harm animals by hitting, kicking, choking, maiming and killing pets. They also indirectly harm or kill pets through neglect (ex. Not providing food, water, shelter, or necessary vaccines.)
Studies have found that between 25% and 40% of battered women are unable to escape abusive situations because they worry about what will happen to their pets or livestock if they leave.
Statistics show documented evidence of a link between animal abuse and domestic violence.
- 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.
- One study found women in shelters reported that 61.5 percent of their children had observed pet abuse.
The Coalition’s twelve domestic violence shelters have resources for assisting victims and their animals. To find out what type of assistance is available in your area speak with your local domestic violence advocate. Click here to find the program in your area.
Some Frequently Asked Questions
Q: If my partner harms an animal, will he or she hurt me?
A: It is possible. A person who hits or kicks an animal can be violent. If your partner has harmed or seriously threatened your pets, you may be in danger and should contact your local domestic violence program to access resources and safety planning.
Q: How can I protect my pet?
A: When there is violence in the home, it is important to have an emergency plan for sheltering your children, yourself, and your pet. An advocate from your local domestic violence program can help you with this.
Q: If I have to leave, who will take care of my pet?
A: If possible, find a friend or relative to care for your pet. If that's not possible, contact your local domestic violence program or animal control agency.
Q: Will my pet be in danger in a foster home or with friends?
A: For everyone's safety, keep the name of your pet's caretaker and the location confidential in the event that you leave an abuser and place your pet with another caretaker.
Q: What should I take when I move my pet to safety?
A: If you are able to prepare for moving your pet to safety, try to have the following pet items in a safe place, out of your abuser's reach:
- Vaccination and medical records and medications if needed
- A collar with ID tags and rabies tags
- Dog leash or cat carrier
- An information sheet with feeding instructions and schedule, medical conditions, and any likes or dislikes
- Food and water bowls, toys, and grooming supplies
Click here for a sample safety plan for your animal.
New Hampshire Law
Under NH Law you can ask for protection of your pets through a domestic violence or stalking restraining order.
When petitioning for a domestic violence restraining order under RSA 173-B you may ask the court to grant you custody of your pets or to restrain the defendant from abusing your pets. You may ask the judge to order the abuser to stay was from the pet in both temporary and final domestic violence protection orders. Any domesticated animals can be included under these protections.
RSA 633:3a, NH's stalking law, states that "causing injury to a person's pet, or to a pet belonging to a member of that person's immediate family" constitutes a course of conduct. "Course of conduct'' means two or more acts over a period of time, however short, which evidences a continuity of purpose. If the plaintiff (victim) can prove that the defendant (abuser) has engaged in two or more acts under RSA 633:3a, s/he may be eligible for a stalking order of protection. Like a domestic violence order of protection, the plaintiff may ask the court to grant custody of his/her pets or to restrain the defendant from abusing the pets.
For more information on how to file a domestic violence restraining order or a stalking order contact your local domestic violence program. You can either be connected by calling the statewide 24 hotline number 1-866-644-3574 or go to our member program page to locate the center nearest you.
Foster a Pet
You can help a victim of domestic violence by providing a safe home for their pet while they are in shelter. For more information read about the Safe Haven Program of the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire or call ARLNH at 603-472-3647.
- NH Governor’s Commission on the Humane Treatment of Animals
- First Strike Program of the Humane Society of the United States
*Statistics provided by American Humane Society