Are you a veterinarian, vet tech or do you work at a clinic and want to help domestic violence survivors and their pets find safety and healing? Here you’ll find some tips and tools on how to learn more about the issue and how you can help in your community.
Know the Signs and How to Respond
Connecting with your local domestic violence organization is an important step in supporting survivors and pets in your community. We’ve provided some basic information below but they can provide more specific training to you and clinic staff on domestic violence and how to recognize the signs. In addition, work with them to create a plan for how you’ll respond when you do suspect domestic violence.
What to look for in patients:
Potential signs of abuse in your patients may include:
- Inconsistency between nature of injuries and explanation of injuries
- Changing explanations of injuries (perhaps by another family member who is present)
- Unexplained delay in seeking medical attention or owner self-treating injuries (when unrelated to financial hardship)
- Injuries presenting at different stages of healing, and/or repetitive injuries
- Pet parent repeatedly fails to follow-up on the treatment of serious medical conditions
- A previous injury or death has occurred in another animal in the same household, or belonging to the same owner
Here are some resources to help you learn more:
What to look for in pet parents:
The abuse of pets may be used as a means of power and control by the abuser. The abuser may:
- Refuse to provide food or veterinary care for the pet
- Threaten, harm or kill the pet
- Teach and/or force children to watch pet abuse
- Blame the survivor, children or the pet for the abuse
- Deny ownership of pets to survivors
- Prohibit the survivor from socializing with the pet (walks, dog park, etc)
- Threaten to harm the pet if the survivor leaves and/or as a tool to make the survivor return
Download and share the “8 signs that may indicate an abusive relationship” infographic.
How to Respond
Some sample questions to ask if you suspect domestic violence:
- What are family members’ attitudes toward the pet?
- Is there an order of protection?
- Do you have any safety concerns?
- Are there any obstacles in providing care for the pet?
- “I believe you.”
- “No one deserves to be hurt.”
- “There are resources available.”
It’s important that you work with a domestic violence organization to create for a plan for how you’ll respond. This could include setting up “code words” for staff, creating a safe place for survivors to connect with resources, etc.
Visit SafePlaceForPets.org to find pet programs throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Ready to learn more?
Join us for a training workshop! You’ll learn from and connect with others interested in creating and sustaining pet programs designed to keep people and pets together.