Domestic Violence and Your Pet

Batterers hurt both humans and animals. How to find help if you and your pet are at risk.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
5-minute read
Episode #36

How to Find a Refuge for Your Pet

More and more domestic violence shelters allow victims to bring their companion animals. The Humane Society of the United States lists these shelters on its website. If there’s no such shelter near you, contact your local animal control or municipal animal shelter for help. They may be able to foster your pet while you get on your feet again. Ask your veterinarian, too. Maybe he knows of a low-cost boarding option. If you have a long-standing relationship with him, he might be willing to defer or cut his own boarding fee. Remember, vets become vets because they care about animals’ welfare. Your vet doesn’t want to see your companion tortured any more than you do.

Best of all is to find a friend willing to care for your pet temporarily. You’ll have the comfort of knowing that your companion is in the care of someone personally attached to her, and a stay with a familiar person will be less upsetting for your pet.

Finally, consider relinquishing your pet to an animal shelter. Let’s not pretend that this is a happy option. Especially in the current economic climate, local shelters may be overcrowded and underfunded and consequently have high euthanasia rates. Or your pet may have medical or behavioral problems that make him unadoptable. I love my dogs. I would rather have them humanely euthanized than living with someone who terrified and hurt them.

What to Do If You Know Someone Who’s Being Abused and Has a Pet

If you have a friend who is being abused at home and is afraid to leave because the abuser may hurt her pet, can you offer that pet a temporary home? Who knows--reluctance to ask for such a big favor may be the biggest obstacle keeping your friend in a bad situation.

Getting Ready to Leave

Whether you’ll be bringing your pet with you or sheltering him elsewhere, plan in advance as much as possible. Any boarding situation will require up-to-date vaccinations. If you have a safe place to stash pet supplies, try to include a favorite toy and bed as well as the basics of leash, carrier, medication, bowl, and food. Ideally, your pet’s ID tag should bear the phone number of a trusted friend or vet--not the phone number or address of the place where you’ve taken refuge.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).