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Dogs suffer in domestic violence

When violence occurs between family members, pets are often victims of abuse. I read a lot of articles about pets, but one in particular struck me this week because it touched on an issue I have never thought about before – pets battered during domestic violence.

The article in this month’s (June 2008) “O, The Oprah Magazine,” titled “The Battered Pet” told of several cases where abusers tortured or killed a pet in order to remain in control of a spouse. And unfortunately, this is an effective way to remain in control.

Shelter residents interviewed for the article shared stories of delayed attempts to leave an abusive relationship because their pets would have nowhere to go. Women spoke of weighing their pets’ safety against their own, considering most battered women’s shelters do not allow pets. Knowing the amount of loyalty, love and comfort a pet offers, I cannot imagine making that kind of decision.

One example was Susan Walsh, whose border collie and two sheep were purposely killed by her husband. The sheep were shot, and her dog was deliberately ran over with a truck, she said. Walsh said she remained in an abusive marriage partly out of fear of what could happen to her remaining pets if she left.

“Victims of domestic violence may be reluctant to leave an abusive relationship for fear of retaliation upon their pets,” said Joanne Bourbeau, director of The Humane Society of the United States New England Regional Office, in an HSUS news release.

Maine was the first state to allow judges to include animals in protective orders for people seeking protection from abuse, according to “O.” Nine other states have done the same since. I am considering contacting the women’s shelter in my area to ask if any of the residents there have pets that could be in danger.

For more information on protective orders that include pets, search the following web sites:, and

Mayra Calvani

Wednesday 14th of May 2008

This is so sad! I also believe there should be strict laws against animal abuse. In some countries, there are no laws at all and animals sometimes face horrible ends. I assume you have all heard about the artist in Guatemala (or Honduras) who tied a dog at an art gallery and let it die a slow death (no food, no water) in the name of 'art'. The most horrible part of it is, most people just stood there and watched.

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Wednesday 14th of May 2008

My occupation is as a social worker, in my last job, if I had to do home visits I would (without being obvious) check the family pet, if it showed signs of abuse it was indictive that the children &/or wife would also... when I left the home i would make an anonymous phcall to the animal authorities

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Lindsay Stordahl

Tuesday 13th of May 2008

Yeah, it is no surprise that someone willing to abuse a human would abuse an animal too. It happens way too often.


Tuesday 13th of May 2008

I'm glad to hear Utah has passed such a law. While I don't not equate pets to human life the idea of leaving my babies behind is unfathomable.

Abusers will use anything to gain power over their victim - including pets. People capable of inflicting such damage on other humans of course will have no qualms to abuse an animal.

I hate abuse. :(

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Tuesday 13th of May 2008

I can't imagaine my husband ever hurting our dogs. I can't imagine living that way. You see it more and more in the news too. A few years ago I took in a skinny chocolate lab that was left out back for 3 weeks because the family was afraid to go back because of the abusive husband. The sheriff ended up getting him and the family then brought him to me to rehome. What a crying shame.

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