Victims fear leaving their pets behind

Women who find themselves in the vice of violence in their relationships and fear for their lives must make split second decisions for their personal safety. Often they must leave home in a hurry with nothing but the clothes they are wearing. Sometimes women in such situations are afraid to look out for themselves because they fear for the safety of their pets. Some women stay in a dangerous, perhaps life-threatening situation because they worry about what will happen to their beloved pets if they aren’t there to protect them.

Jenny R. Pike has been president of HSCC for nearly eight years and speaks to groups throughout the region to inform and educate about “Society’s Impact on Animal Welfare.” Heather Jurina, director of operations at HSCC and a humane agent for the society related several incidents that have occurred in the past which illuminate the issue of domestic violence in regard to beloved family pets.

A woman feared for her life. She was uncertain that she would wake up in the morning if she stayed. She was quickly on a plane flying to safety. At the same time her sister was on the phone arranging to get the pets out of the home and to a safe place until she could be reunited with them. Another woman left her abuser. He killed one of the family pets, shipped it to her and said the same thing would happen to the others if she did not come back.

The American Humane Association offers some statistics:

– 71 percent of pet-owning women entering women’s shelters reported that their batterer had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control victims; 32 percent reported their children had hurt or killed animals.

-68 percent of battered women reported violence towards their animals, 87 percent of these incidents in the presence of the women and 75 percent in the presence of children, to psychologically control and coerce them.

-13 percent of intentional animal abuse cases involve domestic violence.

-Between 25 percent and 40 percent of battered women are unable to escape abusive situations because they worry about what will happen to their pets or livestock should they leave.

-Investigation of animal abuse is often the first point of social services intervention for a family in trouble.

-Animal cruelty problems are people problems. When animals are abused, people are at risk.

The HSCC is a county resource, a community center for pets, Pike said. The agency, which operates solely on donations, can sometimes provide resources that can assist a family in crisis when they need a safe haven for their pets until they can be together again. In the state of Ohio there are two safe houses that allow pets. One is in Coshocton and the other in New Philadelphia. There is a need for more education and awareness, programming and funding to support all that the HSCC does. No one should stay in a life-threatening situation because they fear for the safety of their pets.

Jurina shared a brief story about a woman whose pet was placed for safe keeping until they could be reunited. It did happen. Occasionally she stops by to drop off a bag of pet food. It may be only a 5-pound bag, but that meant everything to her in her hour of need, she advised.

For information regarding resources to find a safe haven for a pet during a period of domestic violence call HSCC at 330-332-2600 or 330-332-8622.

Family Recovery Center promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities with education, prevention and treatment programs. For more information about these programs, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468 or e-mail