Research finds a clear and compelling link between animal abuse and other violent acts. Animal abuse does not only hurt animals; it affects our entire community.
Animal abuse also has a strong connection to domestic violence. Victim’s dogs and cats are often used by abusers as pawns to manipulate and control them. In an abusive home, a companion animal may serve as a lone confidant for an abused woman or child and, by abusing the animal, an abuser is taking advantage of the victim’s concern for his or her animal. Abusers may threaten animals to keep children and partners from reporting abuse or to keep them from leaving. Often acts of abuse are perpetrated in the presence of adult and child victims. By hurting the animals, an abuser is sending the message that a human victim could be next.
Children who witness such abuse are three times more likely to abuse animals and, later in life, to play a role in an abusive relationship. Family violence perpetuates the detrimental cycle of violence. The Wisconsin Humane Society has created several programs to promote empathy in children and to prevent violence in the Milwaukee community.
Why legislation to include animals in restraining orders is important
Many victims are hesitant to leave a dangerous situation because they fear for their animal’s safety. Their fears are not unfounded. Abusers often retaliate when their victim leaves by torturing or killing their animals. Currently, an abused person can obtain temporary and permanent restraining orders issued by the court to keep abusers from having contact with them or with their children. However, their concern for their animal’s wellbeing is not addressed, leaving some victims afraid to leave a situation that is unsafe for them and their children.
Recently, some states have changed their legislation to include protections for victims' animals, which gives people the opportunity to leave an abusive situation with peace of mind. Such legislation has passed in Maine, Vermont and New York and has been introduced in several other states.