Domestic Abuse And Pets

Dear Liz.  I am thinking of leaving an abusive relationship but I am afraid that if I leave my dog behind, my ex will harm him.  What can I do?

Signed, Trapped in Tolland.

Dear Trapped:

It has long been known that there is a connection between domestic violence and animal cruelty.  The abuser, in an effort to retain control over the victim, can sometimes use the family pet as leverage to keep the victim at home.  The abuser will threaten to harm the animal if the victim leaves so the victim, afraid that she will not be able to take the pet with her, may stay in an effort to keep that pet safe.  Approximately 50% of all abused women will not leave because they fear their abuser will harm or even kill their pet. Unfortunately this often does not solve anything and actually gives the abuser more confidence.

If you or someone you know is thinking about leaving an abusive relationship but are afraid for the fate of your pet, I’m going to offer a few suggestions that might help.

First, if it’s a critical situation and there is imminent danger to yourself, obviously you need to call the police and leave NOW.  If you feel it’s necessary, take your pet.  Call the police and get out.  I can not repeat that enough.  I’m sure that the animal control officer for your town can be asked to keep the pet until you are able to get it back, once you’re in a safe place.

If you are thinking of leaving and have time to plan ahead, contact your animal control officer and ask if they can help until you can relocate.  Ask friends or relatives if they can take the pet until you can get settled.  Try to make arrangements for your pets and take them with you when you do decide to leave.  There are also many shelters that would be willing to take in pets under these circumstances as well.  But planning ahead is critical.

On October 1st, 2007, Governor Rell put into effect a law that permits courts to issue protective orders for animals owned or kept by victims of family violence, stalking or harassment.  “The orders may, at a minimum, prohibit respondents or defendants from injuring or threatening to injure the animals.  In family violence cases, the order may be a civil restraining, or criminal protective, order.”

So which ever way you decide that you must leave, know that there is help out there and that the State does recognize that your pets deserve protection as well.  My best wishes to you and your dog.

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