Checklist: How to Help Protect Pets and Service Animals from Domestic Abuse
The following tips may help protect your pets from the horrors of domestic violence:
- Notice warning signs. Historic hitting, kicking, verbal abuse through yelling, and or other signs of cruelty toward animals oftentimes indicates a person will also be violent toward humans and future pets. This is true even if the violent acts occurred during the perpetrator's adolescence.
- Do not bring a pet into an abusive home. If you notice the above warning signs prior to getting a pet, don't get one. Do not bring an animal into your home if there is emotional, physical or financial abuse present. Getting a pet will not quell an abusive situation.
- Always make sure your pet is up-to-date on vaccinations and is spayed. This will help if you need to seek assistance from a friend or family member to shelter your pet.
- Make sure your pet is trained. This will also help if you need to seek assistance from a friend or family member to shelter your pet. Chris N. Martin of Dogs Anonymous, an organization that offers canine services for dogs including obedience training, behavior modification, and deep-rooted problem behaviors such as phobias, aggression and more, emphasizes the importance in training your pets. It is okay to seek outside help to do this. Chris is a graduate from Animal Behavior College in Northridge California and is a fully certified as a dog professional and member of the International Association of Canine Professionals.
- Seek help from friends and family. Ask family members and friends to provide temporary shelter for your pets that may be in danger to give you time to make permanent arrangements. Always make sure any person who you trust with your animal is prepared and able to provide care.
- Research and identify a trusted animal shelter for you pet in advance. Be prepared. Do your research about an animal shelter in advance if this is the only option. Do not simply "drop off" a pet to an unknown shelter. Make sure you know the organization, its policies and its procedures before even considering this option. In addition be informed as to what could happen to you pet both in the long term and short term.
- Do not hesitate to ask for help from your community. Your local law enforcement, domestic violence shelter, animal shelter, veterinarian, or boarding kennel may be able to provide temporary care for your pet.
- Police protection. Ask a police officer to go with you to your home to retrieve your pet if you fear for the safety of yourself or the animal. Your safety comes first.
- Prove ownership. An abusive partner might try to intimidate you by claiming to own your pet. To avoid this make sure that it is clear that you own the pet by having your name on the pet license and veterinary records.
- Items to have on hand. When you leave an abusive environment with your pet, take the animal's vaccination and medical records, license, bowls, bedding, leashes, carriers, and feeding and care instructions to give to temporary caretakers.
- Keep an animal at risk's location discreet. Keep your pet's location unknown from a violent partner. Remove the old identification tags that show the household you are leaving and immediately put new tags on the animal with a new phone number for your veterinarian or a trusted friend. (Always do this concurrently).
- Help others: Research and then support animal programs and shelters in your community. Finding shelter for a pet or service animal is oftentimes a critical part of a person's escape from domestic violence. Support worthy animal shelter programs so that victims do not have to risk their own safety to protect their pets. Do your research and make sure any organization you donate time or money to is legitimate and any donations or volunteer efforts you make benefit an organization which acts in a manner that is in line with your intentions. For example, Hero's Friends in Southern California is a non-profit rescue started by a group of caring people who rescued their dogs and decided they wanted to do more to help save the lives of dogs in need. Through advocacy, education, and rescue work, Hero's Friends hopes to move to a time when there will be no more homeless dogs.
- Talk to a Family Law Attorney. Some states provide protection for pets and service animals through domestic violence restraining orders. Currently only twenty states as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico provide specific protection for pets and service animals through their courts. The specific protection varies in these jurisdictions. These are listed below in alphabetical order:
5. District of Columbia, Washington, D.C.
14. New Jersey
15. New York
16. North Carolina
18. Puerto Rico
22. West Virginia
Hopefully other states will follow suit. Check with a local attorney to see what you can do to protect your pet from domestic violence in your state. The laws surrounding pet protection are evolving and changing in each state.
Remember your safety always comes first. Do not hesitate to contact the police if you fear for your safety.
Lance Claery, Partner
Claery & Green, LLP