Domestic violence and animal abuse in the Netherlands

Sheltering pets of domestic violence victims

Pets are hugely popular in the Netherlands. As many as 60% of households in the Netherlands have one or more pets. Pets are viewed as close friends and valuable members of the family. So far, so wonderful, but there is a downside.

Research at Utrecht University and women’s shelter Kadera showed a close connection between domestic violence and animal abuse. This connection may manifest itself in two ways: violence aimed at animals is either part of domestic violence or a predictor of later violent behaviour. This means that often pets are victims of domestic violence as well. Fortunately, this category of ‘forgotten victims’ has been given more and more attention lately.

Sadly, however, in many cases the close bond with a pet is a problem for victims of domestic violence. On average, women with pets call for help 52 weeks later than victims without pets. This means that pets are exposed to violence as well, which in turn forces human victims to put off seeking help. The problem: domestic violence victims are usually unable to bring their pets because there are no sheltering facilities for the animal.

That’s why IFAW and Kadera, a women’s shelter in the east of the country, joined hands to take care of the pets of domestic violence victims. From July 2014, pets of domestic abuse victims have been sheltered as part of a pilot project.

This initiative has since been expanded to various other centres for battered women across the nation.

How does it work?
When a pet is taken to one of our domestic violence projects, it is sheltered temporarily and examined by a vet. Then we go in search for a suitable host family. The domestic violence project works with carefully selected host families throughout the country. This way, as long as the victim is taken care of after fleeing a domestic violence situation, her animals are sheltered safely and receive loving care to help them calm down and recover.

Working with host families and our network of veterinarians and other specialists, the domestic violence project ensures that fewer animals fall victim to domestic abuse while encouraging their owners to seek help more quickly. In other words: a better solution for animals and people!