Animal Welfare Institute Launches New Web Feature to Help Victims of Domestic Violence Seek Safety for Themselves and Their Pets

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Washington, D.C. -- In special recognition of April as Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, the Animal Welfare Institute announces the launch of a new feature on its website. The information and resources available through the Animals and Family Violence page are designed for families experiencing abuse against a spouse, child, elderly family member, or companion animals, as well as for the domestic violence shelter personnel, humane societies, law enforcement, and others who provide services to families in crisis.

Research and experience have both established that when animal abuse occurs in the family, other violence is also likely to be present, and vice versa. Because of the strong attachments they have with their pets, victims of domestic violence may delay leaving a dangerous situation because of fear for the pet’s safety. Victims and their families need help; so do their companion animals.

"AWI wants to provide practical tools and information to protect animals and their families," stated AWI President Cathy Liss. "We are pleased to provide these resources to the many dedicated people who come in contact with victims of domestic violence and their companion animals."

These tools include the National Safe Havens Mapping Project, a listing by state of safe havens for pets programs. Eventually this database will cover all states (it now covers 30) and will be searchable by zip code. The National Safe Havens Mapping Project will be an important tool for all of those who want to help domestic violence victims and their pets reach safety.

Other tools include the following: Safety Planning for Pets of Domestic Violence Victims; Questions about Pets to Ask Domestic Violence Victims Calling the Hotline or During Intake; Including Pets in Protection Orders; and "Guidelines for Human Service Personnel: Pets, Domestic Violence, and Children." There is current information about states that allow inclusion of companion animals in Temporary Restraining Orders, a model Temporary Restraining Order, and model legislation for Temporary Restraining Orders.

The new webpage also provides opportunities to network with others in the larger community who are working to help domestic violence victims and their families through a listserv of directors of safe havens for pets programs, downloadable materials, and links to other useful websites, such as the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and Ahimsa House.

David LaBahn, president and CEO of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys welcomes the new resource. "When there is violence in the home, everyone suffers,” observed LaBahn. “As prosecutors, we know that abusers take out their rage on the family pets as a way to exert more power and control over children, spouses, even their elderly parents. AWI is providing a great service by making so many resources available in one place for victims of family violence as well as for prosecutors, law enforcement, and service providers. We appreciate their ongoing leadership in this area."

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Media Contacts:
Mary Lou Randour, Ph.D., AWI, (202) 446-2127
Nancy Blaney, AWI, (202) 446-2141