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Updated: Feb 13

Domestic violence statistics show that an estimated one in three women and one in four men experience some form of domestic abuse in their lifetimes, but only as few as 10 percent of domestic violence shelters accept pets. As a result, nearly half of victims choose to stay in abusive situations rather than leave their pets behind. You can change those statistics and help women in your community.

What you can do

1. Find out if your community domestic violence shelter is set up to take pets and ask how you can help them.

2. If your local shelter does not take pets, perhaps they interested in making accommodations for pets. Start or join a team of volunteers to set up your shelter to accept pets. It may require funds to make renovations, so be prepared to help raise those funds.

3. If it’s not possible to accommodate pets at the shelter and they are unwilling or unable to make the changes to accommodate pets, don’t be discouraged. There are other options.

a. Work with your shelter to start a foster program for pets, where people in the community sign up to foster pets for people entering the domestic violence shelter.

b. Work with your local animal shelter to set up a temporary pet sheltering or foster program for pets where the pets are taken care of until the family is able to take them back.

4. Create a First strike Program in your community. In the last twenty years, researchers and advocates have learned a lot about how pet abuse and domestic violence are related, and how important this relationship is for early identification of both human and animal victims of abuse. A First Strike Program is a community-wide coalition of agencies and organizations such as domestic violence shelters, police departments, veterinarian hospitals, and animal shelters, etc. who join forces and establish communications and referral systems to identify abusers early and quickly utilizing the fact that domestic violence escalates from animal abuse to abuse toward people.

The following are some of the most important facts about domestic violence and animal abuse. The information below was compiled from studies that were published in peer-reviewed professional journals or books.


Domestic violence, child abuse, and animal abuse frequently occur simultaneously in a family.

Multiple studies have found that from 49% to 71% of battered women reported that their pets had been threatened, harmed, and or killed by their partners.

In a national survey, 85% of domestic violence shelters indicated that women coming to their facilities told of incidents of pet abuse.

According to a survey, women in domestic violence shelters were 11 times more likely to report animal abuse by their partners than was a comparison group of women not experiencing violence.

A study of 1,283 female pet owners seeking refuge found batterers who abuse pets also used more forms of violence and demonstrated greater use of controlling behaviors.


Women with pets may delay leaving a dangerous environment for fear of their pets’ safety.

Across various surveys, between 18% and 48% of battered women delay leaving a dangerous situation out of concern for their pets’ safety.


Individuals who commit pet abuse are more likely to become batterers.

Pet abuse was identified as one of the four significant predictors for intimate partner violence in a recent “gold standard” study conducted by Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell and colleagues in three metropolitan areas over a period of seven years.

A more thorough understanding of the connection between animal abuse and the likelihood of becoming a batterer would better enable us to intervene at one of the earliest possible points and to stop battering before it begins.


Animal abuse often is linked to the severity of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).

Studies have found a significant association between physical and severe psychological IPV perpetration and a history of animal abuse, as well as an association between pet abuse and controlling behaviors in violent relationships. Moreover, over the past ten years, more and more studies confirm a significant association between animal maltreatment and more frequent and severe forms of intimate partner violence (IPV). These studies included asking women who sought shelter for domestic violence about their experiences, as well as checking court records of men who had been convicted of domestic violence. A revised Danger Assessment instrument designed to predict re-assault in female same-sex relationships included the following question, “Has she threatened to harm a pet, family member, or person with a disability?” At this time it seems clear that seriousness of animal maltreatment is linked to the level of danger to which a domestic violence victim is exposed. This makes it more imperative that both animal protection service/humane law enforcement and human service/law enforcement agencies receive information and training about this connection.


Safe havens for pets—offering assistance either with direct service or information to survivors of domestic violence about housing their pets safely—have grown nationally.

Currently there are approximately 1,200 safe havens for pets nationally.

For additional information or for a list of references, please contact Mary Lou Randour, PhD at (202) 446-2127 or

Domestic Violence and COVID-19

Some of the effects of COVID-19 have been an increase in sales of guns and ammunition, domestic violence survivors forced to quarantine with abusers, economic hardships, remote learning keeping teachers from being able to report suspected child maltreatment, social distancing requirements in domestic violence shelters that reduce capacity, and psychological stressors as exacerbating conditions for family violence.

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800.799.SAFE (7233)

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