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The connection between pets and domestic abuse

Feet in slippers and dogs paws on the floor

Through our experience and from research, we know that there’s a significant connection between pets and domestic abuse. Pets can be a barrier for someone finding safety, and are often used by perpetrators as a tool for coercive control.

Our Survey* in 2019 found that many survivors of domestic abuse had experienced their pets being abused, or their ability to care for their pets restricted.

97% of professionals said pets are often used as a means of controlling and coercing someone experiencing domestic abuse. 

9 out of 10 professionals said that some survivors won't leave their home without knowing their pet will be safe.

89% of professionals said that they were aware of domestic abuse cases where pets had also been abused.

59% of professionals knew of cases where pets, or an owner's ability to care for a pet, had been impacted by economic abuse.

The bond we share with our pets is always an important one, particularly when we're going through difficult times. Sadly, abusers also recognise this bond, and use it to gain power and control over their partner or family members. This can range from threatening to harm the pet, to stopping someone being able to care for their pet the way they’d like to.

Coercive control 

We know that many abusers exploit the bond people have with their pets to gain power and control. It’s common for pets to be threatened, or even harmed, by perpetrators.  

Emotional abuse 

Emotional or psychological abuse might include an abuser selling or rehoming a beloved pet, or calling the owners names, such as a 'bad dog owner'. 

Physical abuse 

Over a third of the dogs referred to Freedom have also experienced physical abuse, which is extremely frightening and traumatic for their owners to witness. We work closely with the Links Group, who aim to raise awareness within the vet community of non-accidental injury.

Economic abuse

Many abusers will control access to finances, preventing dog owners accessing essential veterinary care or food for their dogs. Our service is completely free to access; we'll arrange a health check and organise any vaccinations or flea and worming treatment that might be needed.  

Given the close connection between pets and domestic abuse, our service is vital to ensure both people and their pets can take steps to find safety. The Freedom service is designed specifically for survivors of domestic abuse, and we operate under strict service standards set through the Links Pet Fostering Group.

*Pets and Domestic Abuse Professionals Survey 2019 

Pets & Domestic Abuse Survey 2019

Our article outlines our research and the connection between pets and domestic abuse.

Pets & domestic abuse blog

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