Domestic violence affects our pets’ safety too.
By Justyne Yuen-Lee
“Between 18 to 48 percent of victims of domestic violence delay leaving their batterer out of fear for the welfare of their pets.” – The American Kennel Club
As much as we love sharing inspiring pet stories, we also aim to raise awareness for issues involving animals and their owners. One of the issues we need to discuss is domestic violence and how it affects all victims – including our pets. What a lot of people don’t know is that October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As you will learn in this article, nearly half of the United States adult population have been victim to physical aggression by an intimate partner. That’s a huge number. Most victims think that they have nowhere to turn and must stay with their partner for various reasons. Victims with pets have yet another difficulty leaving as there are few shelters who accommodate pets.
These pet owners are left with a difficult choice: abandon their pet for safety or stay in the abusive relationship.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline has some stats which illustrate the magnitude of this issue:
“1 in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) aged 18 and older in the United States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.”
“Nearly half of all women and men in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime (48.4% and 48.8%, respectively).”
“Females ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 generally experienced the highest rates of intimate partner violence.”
Without going further into more devastating facts and figures, it goes without saying that domestic abuse is a real and serious issue. As someone who has escaped an abusive relationship, I can say that it does take a huge toll on a victim, both physically and emotionally. You never feel safe or sure about any of your thoughts or actions and you are manipulated into believing that the unhealthy relationship is all love.
Luckily, a new campaign is aiming to provide help and shelter for pet owners in situations of domestic abuse.
What’s rarely a part of the domestic violence conversation is the very real issue of pets involved in these situations. The American Kennel Club has started the AKC Humane Fund to raise awareness for victims and their pets.
The AKC states that:
“Over 70 percent of victims have admitted that their abuser either injured, threatened, or killed their family pet.”
“Between 18 to 48 percent of victims of domestic violence delay leaving their batterer out of fear for the welfare of their pets.”
The AKC hopes to raise $50 000 to fund pet-friendly shelters for battered victims. As of right now, most shelters cannot accommodate pets and in turn, victims face another obstacle in leaving an awful situation with few opportunities to escape and protect their pets.
Some shelters note that from 10-15% of inquiring calls ask about pet accommodation. We hope that one day, this is a non-issue and that not seeking shelter is a decision no pet owner should ever be faced with.
Credit: Facebook / Connor and Millie’s Dog Rescue CMDR
Earlier this year, there was a story of an abandoned puppy at an airport. His human had to leave him to escape her partner. This is just one of the few and sad options victims of domestic abuse have with their pets.
To many people, our pets are our children. And if there are pets AND children involved, all are subject to the domestic abuse in various forms.
This unique fund helps to raise awareness and provide a safe solution for pet owners in a domestic abuse situation. Dog lovers and other supporters can donate to the cause. The American Kennel Club will be using the money raised to award grants to pet-friendly domestic abuse shelters.
I know it is hard to leave someone you think you love. That person may say that everything they do is out of love and has moments of “clarity” and “gentleness”. But, your safety and possibly your pet’s and children’s safety are more important. The thought of leaving may be painful and even terrifying, but I promise you, it is the best choice. There is support out there.
We applaud the AKC for helping to protect vulnerable people and pets.