Animal Cruelty & Relationship Abuse

In recent years, a strong correlation linking animal abuse and domestic violence has been documented. National studies have shown that up to 80% of pet-owning women entering domestic violence shelters report that their abuser had injured, maimed, killed or threatened their pet.

Why Do Abusers Batter Pets?

  • To demonstrate power and control
  • To isolate the victim and children
  • To perpetuate an environment of fear
  • To prevent the victim from leaving or coerce her to return
  • To punish for leaving or showing independence

This content is adapted from the ASPCA.

What Advocates Can Do for Survivors with Pets

  • Add questions about the presence of pets and their welfare to shelter intake questionnaires and risk assessments.
  • Include provisions for pets in safety planning strategies.
  • Help your clients to prove ownership of their animals.
  • Help victims to retrieve animals left behind.
  • Include animals in abuse prevention orders.
  • Help victims find pet-friendly transitional and permanent housing.
  • When victims can no longer care for their pets, make referrals to animal adoption agencies.
  • Work with animal shelters, veterinarians, and rescue groups to establish “safe haven” foster care programs for the animal victims of domestic violence; some women’s shelters are building kennels at their facilities.
  • Establish community coalitions against family violence that include humane societies, SPCAs, animal control agencies, and veterinarians. Invite representatives from these agencies to train your staff on how animal abuse cases are investigated and prosecuted: offer to train their staffs and volunteers about domestic violence issues.

This content is adapted from the American Humane Association.


If your partner has threatened to abuse your animal this might be a Warning Sign of Abuse, and you may want to talk to someone at the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE(7233)If you would like to leave your apartment, but are unsure of where to safely keep your animal, please consider the following:

  • Contact your veterinarian for a list of preferred boarding kennels and facilities.
  • Ask your local animal shelter if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets.
  • Identify hotels or motels outside of your immediate area that accept pets.
  • Ask friends and relatives outside your immediate area if they would be willing to take in your pet.
  • See the ASPCA’s Disaster Preparedness page for more information.

For more information about the link between animal cruelty and relationship abuse, please see the following: