Women’s Center Update: Violence toward animals a ‘red flag’ | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Women’s Center Update: Violence toward animals a ‘red flag’

Lisa Michele Utzig

For many individuals a pet is part of the family and an important source of comfort and stability, especially for children. If your family is experiencing violence, your pet can become a victim as well.

A person who punches, kicks, throws, or hurts an animal in any way has an extremely high potential to hurt you and your family. Violent behavior toward animals is an important “red flag” in determining whether someone may become an abusive partner. An individual may become violent toward your pet for a number of reasons: to demonstrate and confirm power and control over the family; to isolate you and your children; to force you to keep the violence a secret; to eliminate competition for attention; to prevent you and your family from leaving or to punish you if you do leave.

A pet can become an outlet for violence for an abusive partner. If a partner has physically assaulted your pet, other members of the family, including you and your children, are at a much higher risk of becoming victims of domestic violence. When there is violence in the home it is very important to have a safety plan for your family and your pet in case of an emergency. It is important to have your and your children’s birth certificates, immigration records, immunization records, driver’s license, Social Security information, and bank information. It is also important to have the following pet items in a safe location, away from your partner, in case you need to leave in an emergency: dog/cat license, proof of vaccinations, or veterinary receipts in your name, leashes, carriers, medication, information for feeding, toys, etc.

Most communities recognize pets as property. If you have left your pet behind be sure to request a civil standby calling a police escort before returning to the violent home to reclaim your pet. This service is provided free by local law enforcement, and can prevent violence from escalating when you return to take your pet. It can be difficult to find a safe place to go when leaving an abusive partner and even more difficult to find temporary housing for your pet. Consider asking family or friends to take care of your pet until you find a pet-friendly place to live. If this is not an option you can call your local animal shelter, boarding kennel or veterinarian, all of whom may be willing to temporarily board your pet. If you come into the Women’s Center, advocates will work with you to make sure that all members of your family have a safe place to live, including your pets.

Studies show that children who have witnessed or been victims of physical abuse may become animal abusers. Identifying animal abusers can help identify other victims of violence within a family. You and your pets have the right to live lives free of violence and abuse. If you are concerned for the safety of your family or the safety of others please contact the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center at (530) 544-4444 or stop by the office to speak with an advocate at 2941 Lake Tahoe Blvd., across from the middle school.

The South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center business office was financed through a low-cost loan from the Rural Community Assistance Corporation.

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– Lisa Michele Utzig is an outreach coordinator at the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center.