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On Sunday, May 3, 2009, a woman in Neptune, NJ returned home to find that her boyfriend had apparently slashed her ferret's throat from ear to ear. After extensive surgery, the ferret survived. The boyfriend was charged with animal cruelty.
Although the article from 1010 WINS did not mention whether the woman had ever been physically abused, it is clear that the attempt to kill the girlfriend's ferret was an act of emotional abuse. Domestic violence can be physical or emotional, and there's a long-known connection between domestic violence and animal cruelty.
At the annual meeting of the New Jersey State Bar Association last week, I attended a session on prosecuting animal cruelty cases, sponsored by the Animal Law Committee, of which I am a member. Included in the handouts was a memo on the link between animal cruelty and domestic violence from the National District Attorney's Association. According to that memo, various studies show that "71 to 83% of women entering domestic violence shelters reported that their partners also abused or killed the family pet." Also:
Some women will not leave their abusive spouse and/or partner because they fear for the life of the companion animal they would have to leave behind . . . The threat of, or act of, animal abuse is also used by the abuser to keep their victims silent about the abuse taking place in their homes . . . The fear that their pet will be tortured or killed keeps them from seeking help - or reporting the abuse.
There are now domestic violence shelters that will allow victims to bring their companion animals with them, and also charities that will provide shelter for pets of domestic violence victims. Hopefully, with the advancement of these programs and better public awareness, human and animal victims will be better protected, and fear for the lives of the pets will no longer be a reason for a victim to stay with an abusive partner.
- More on Domestic Violence from Linda Lowen, Guide to Women's Issues
- Pets and Women's Shelters Program from American Humane
- List of Shelters for Pets of Domestic Violence Victims from Ahimsa House
- National Domestic Violence Hotline
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