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Domestic violence affects pets as well as people

September 30, 2013 - Jenny Rukenbrod
During October, the color purple will be displayed abundantly by various agencies and organizations to bring awareness to the topic of "domestic violence." We were so tragically reminded, as we shared the horror of the recent Salem Walmart parking lot shooting, that no one is immune to the effects of domestic violence (DV). In a community where people and pets are connected, we cannot afford to obey our parents advice of âmind your own business." I frequently encounter individuals who lament the fact that people value pets as they do humans, as if I personally influenced the decision to do so. When in fact, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association over two-thirds of Americaás households own pets. Of those pet owners, over 50 percent consider their pets to be members of their family. So, if an emergency occurs or danger presents itself, what is the first thing a compassionate person thinks of? Isnát it family or loved ones? Translation, today's "family" includes pets, too. The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS) was signed into law in 2006. This bi-partisan initiative was proposed as a direct result of Hurricane Katrina. Who can forget the gut wrenching images of pets being pulled from the arms of children and loving owners and left behind as only humans were evacuated for their own safety? Today the essential needs for individuals with household pets and service animals, and the household pets and animals themselves, are included by law in FEMA disaster preparedness. What does this background information have to do with domestic violence you ask? Victims of DV face disaster-like preparedness when planning to evacuate their abusive environment. As with natural disasters like hurricanes and floods, the care and physical needs of all members of the family must be considered. As I referenced previously, over 50 percent of American households include pets. What is a family in crisis to do when they look to flee the ravages of DV but cannot find a safe haven for their pet as well? Sadly, faced with the choice of safety for all, they choose to remain in the harmful environment. Statistics show that in homes where DV occurs and pets exist; over 70 percent of pets are also harmed. Twelve independent surveys have confirmed that up to 48 percent of battered women have delayed their decision to leave their batterer or return to their batterer out of fear for their pets or livestock. 71 percent-85 percent of women in shelters who own pets say that their pet was threatened, abused or killed. Thus a great number of DV victims are remaining in their unhealthy and dangerous environment because no options exist for all members of their families. While money can build the shelters to hold these modern families affected by DV, in a community where people and pets are connected, education and advocacy are pre-requisites. Are you minding your own business to a fault? Or will you add something purple to your life on behalf of ALL victims of Domestic Violence this October?


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