Spotlight UK: Finding safe haven for animal victims of domestic violence
So many of us know and have experienced the close bond that exists between people and their animal companions. Such a relationship is incredibly special and it is one that should not only be cherished, but protected. In families suffering from domestic violence the love between people and their pets may not only be challenged, it can be exploited to cause further harm. Animals may be used as tools to control, threaten, intimidate and frighten human victims. Pets may often be hurt or even killed.
Support for human and animal victims of domestic violence is critical; and Paws for Kids – an IFAW-supported organization in the United Kingdom - is changing and saving lives every year by offering essential support services that don’t ignore animals in the cycle of abuse. I was deeply moved this past week when I heard the stories of two victims and their pets who were able to find safe haven and hope with the help of Paws for Kids. Nothing could better exemplify how essential these services are than the experience of Sally and her Yorkshire terrier, Daisy, as well as Monica and her Jack Russell, Pip - and so I wanted to share them with you….
Sally and Daisy
Sally’s partner injured her so badly that she was hospitalized. While she was in hospital, Daisy her four year old Yorkshire terrier was badly abused and neglected. Just before Sally came out of hospital Daisy’s litter of five week old pups were taken away from her and she was left in the house injured and alone for three days. The perpetrator said he had sold the puppies. He wouldn’t let Sally get Daisy spayed and she was afraid to take her to the veterinarian as she couldn’t explain where Daisy would be for a day.
Sally and Daisy were both helped by Paws for Kids. Sally was temporarily homed in a women’s refuge while Daisy was looked after in a foster home. Once Daisy was well enough, she was spayed, and received some ongoing veterinary treatment due to loss of fur and excess licking- the vet diagnosed this as stress-related. Daisy received steroid tablets and eventually her coat looked full and healthy. She has now been returned home to her owner and both are now settled and living happily in their own home.
Monica and Pip
Pip is an 8 year old Jack Russell Terrier belonging to Monica who was badly abused by the partner, who is a drug user. He also abused Pip by kicking her, standing on her and continually raising his hand as if to hit her and shouting at them both. Pip is very timid and had many times seen Monica distressed and injured. Monica finally heard about Paws for Kids when she spoke to an outreach worker from a women’s refuge. She escaped from the violence after a final beating when she had tried to stop her partner injecting Pip with heroin.
Luckily Pip has now made a full recovery, and was cared for in a Paws for Kids foster home while Monica was in the refuge. Monica has now been re-housed and relocated in a different area from her violent ex-partner, and Pip has been returned to her.
Pip’s foster carer found that Pip was terrified of other people especially if people visited and Pip was in an enclosed space, sometimes Pip showed this in an aggressive way. The Paws for Kids Pet Service Coordinator did a lot of work with Pip and her foster carer to help with socialization. This not only benefitted Pip but also ensured the success of her foster placement and eventual return to Monica. Pip contracted pyometra whilst in foster care and she was hospitalized and spayed. She received an additional treatment for her infection but was given a clean bill of health before being chipped and returned to Monica in her new home.
Women like Sally and Monica struggle everyday to keep themselves safe – often taking the blows themselves so their pets do not suffer. Without a program like Paws for Kids, victims may stay in an abusive situation rather than leaving their beloved pet behind. And if they have made the difficult decision to leave an abusive situation, without a safe place to take their pets, victims may face the choice of giving their pets away permanently or having them euthanized. These are decisions no one should have to make.
No individual should have to tolerate abuse or sacrifice their beloved pet in order to find safety for themselves. And no animal should face cruelty or even death because other options simply don’t exist. As Paws for Kids has recently said, “families are made up of a combination of adults, children, and animals and the welfare and support of one relies heavily on the wellbeing of the other.” Helping animals means helping people, and helping people so often means helping animals too. When we recognize, nurture, and protect the close bond between people and animals, we take one step closer towards making this world a better place for all.
*Thank you to Paws for Kids, especially Sally and Monica for sharing the above stories. Please note that names have been changed to protect the individuals’ identities.