The Connection Between Animal Cruelty and Domestic Violence: A Warning Sign You Should Not Ignore

Alyssa Dover

You are a busy and hard-working woman. You work long hours and take care of everything at home as well. You hear your man upset when you get home and walk into the house. He tells you how bad your dog has been all day and has gone to the bathroom inside. Instead of arguing back, you want to keep the peace and clean up the soiled areas. This process happens almost daily, and you can see him getting increasingly frustrated with the dog that is both of yours! Eventually, you discover he is not letting the dog outside during the day, walking, or feeding him. He is also yelling at the dog and disciplining the dog when the dog barks back. He expects unrealistic behavior from the dog and then hurts him. Then when you show affection to the dog, he gets jealous and upset at you.

The Connection Between Animal Cruelty and Domestic Violence

The anecdote above is animal abuse and a huge warning sign of possible domestic violence for you in the future, if not already. Witnessing animal abuse can affect you mentally with deep depression or sadness. When the abuser sees your connection with the animal and the hurt it causes you, it gives him pleasure. He will likely see it as a vulnerability, leading to them abusing you more mentally and exposing you to further physical violence. Beware of the time when pets become weapons. They are used as leverage to control you and the relationship. People are often seen as animals to them that don’t deserve any love or affection. Power for this type of abuser is the most important thing. Nothing will stop them from their desire to gain control. They get satisfaction from controlling others and never take responsibility for their actions or words. The abuser might even shift the blame to you or someone else.

The animal can also be a huge warning sign for you. If the animal is abused, its mood changes toward people, kids, and animals. They might show signs of abuse, like having physical signs of injuries or scars. Being traumatized emotionally, they will be more aggressive toward you or people. They might also show symptoms of anxiety, separation anxiety, and fear responses. Reactions like those towards a person might also get them abused again. When a person is being abused, the animal suffers as well. They are often neglected or forgotten in the cycle of abuse and will often hide in fear. In some cases, the abuser will even eventually kill the animal.

These signs are also vital to recognize. The connection between animal cruelty and domestic violence is so common that the FBI tracks animal abuse to help tell them to know where humans may be at risk for domestic violence. It is proven that abusers that abuse animals are more physical abuse than those who don’t. These abusers are more dangerous, so it has the FBI’s attention. It is important to report animal abuse for that reason and more!

Leaving an abusive relationship might also be more challenging because you don’t want to leave the animal. Not being able to take the animal with you could delay or stop you from leaving a domestic violence situation. Your priority in any abusive situation is yourself. Make a safety plan, but always consider everyone affected by the abuse, including pets.

In December 2018, PAWS (the Pet and Women’s Safety Act) was introduced to provide programs assistance for providing housing and shelters for women with pets. There are a lot of resources, from the Domestic Violence Support | National Domestic Violence Hotline (thehotline.org) to the US Domestic Violence Support Line (breakthesilencedv.org), that provide information on pet option-friendly shelters. Also, pets became part of federal law in over 29 states to have them included in protection orders. That is huge! Pets are protected in the process as well as you.

Animals are so important to us and our hearts, but never forget how important you are. Don’t ignore the red flags or warning signs in an abusive situation. Know that in a crisis, shelters and laws are in place to protect you and your loved ones, even the furry ones.

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