Companion Animals

AWI champions the mutually beneficial relationship between people and pets and promotes responsible care of companion animals. We seek strong legal protections for companion animals and develop tools and trainings to help law enforcement, social service providers, and other professionals address the link between animal abuse and interpersonal violence—including resources for domestic violence survivors with companion animals.

According to the 2021–2022 National Pet Owners Survey, 70% of all US households include a companion animal. Pets not only provide love and affection—they may even help keep us well. Recent studies have linked pet ownership to lower blood pressure, reduced stress, less incidence of heart disease, and lower overall health care costs. In short, companion animals make us happier and healthier. So, it is only fair to keep them safe, healthy, and happy too.

Sadly, some companion animals are victims of cruelty and neglect. If you witness animal abuse, here are some tips on how to safely report it. Law enforcement officials and social service agencies also have a reporting role to play. It is important to know that animal abuse is often associated with violence toward intimate partners, family members, and the general public. Recognizing and addressing this link can lead to more efficient and effective intervention, which is why AWI took the lead in analyzing animal cruelty data from the FBI. AWI is bringing awareness to the link between animal cruelty and human violence through its Safe Havens for Pets project, which helps animals and people who are experiencing domestic violence escape to safety and provides resources for professionals who are dedicated to protecting families and their pets.

Companion horses may fall victim to another sort of abuse, when they are transported under inhumane conditions to be callously slaughtered outside the country. Find out about AWI’s efforts to end transportation of all horses in double-deck trailers, as well as AWI’s efforts to ban the slaughter of American horses.

And remember: When acquiring a pet, consider the source. Puppy mills and kitten mills churn out expensive purebreds while keeping their breeding animals confined in squalid conditions. Meanwhile, shelters are overrun with dogs and cats who deserve a good home. Birds are another popular pet, but the bird trade is poorly regulated—allowing for low-welfare, mass-breeding facilities and continued extraction from the wild at heavy cost to wild populations. Rather than purchasing a bird from a pet store or private breeder, see if your local animal shelter or bird rescue has birds who need adopting, recognizing that some birds kept as pets can live a very long time..

The allure of exotic pets such as primates or big cats may be tempting, but even if bred in captivity, these animals are still wild in nature—and wild nature is where they belong. Private homes are ill equipped to meet their instinctual needs, and as they go from cute babies to full-grown (and potentially unmanageable) adults, many end up locked away in cages. After suffering years of such neglect, a fortunate few may end up in sanctuaries and a better life. Overall, the trade in wild animals, be it for pets or otherwise, is notorious for its cruelty and negative effects on vulnerable species.

Finally, it is important to attend to companion animal needs—not only when we are at home, but also when we are away. Whatever the species, we have to plan for their care when we travel—whether they stay behind with a pet sitter or come along. (There are particular issues to be aware of when taking pets on planes.) And when emergencies or natural disasters strike, most families will not want to leave their companion animals behind and unprotected. It is therefore important to take pets into account as part of the family’s emergency preparedness planning.