Vets for Pets and People
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What's Missing From Your Patient's History?
Animal Abuse is Domestic Violence
For many battered women, pets are sources of comfort providing strong emotional support: 98% of Americans consider pets to be companions or members of the family.
[American Veterinary Medical Association (2003): U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook. Schaumburg, IL: AVMA.]
Get the Facts
Domestic violence targets the whole family. Abusers often use animal abuse as a means to further terrorize and emotionally harm their human victims. Victims of domestic violence often sacrifice their own safety to protect their pets.
References: Ascione, Weber & Wood, 1997 Society & Animals, unless otherwise noted.
- 71 to 85% of women entering shelters reported that their partner had threatened, injured, or killed the family pet.
- More than 25% of victims report that concern for their pets had affected their decisions about staying or leaving. — McIntosh, 2001 The Latham Letter.
- 50% of children surveyed had protected pets, in some cases by directly intervening to keep their pets from being harmed.
- 74% of women owned pets in the last 12 months before entering a shelter. 68% owned more than one pet. — Ascione, 1998 Journal of Emotional Abuse.
- 31.7% reported emergency veterinary care for their pets, 71% reported their pets received vaccinations.
Know Your Professional Obligation
"The AVMA recognizes that veterinarians may observe cases of animal abuse or neglect as defined by federal or state laws or local ordinances.
"When these situations cannot be resolved through education, the AVMA considers it the responsibility of the veterinarian to report such cases to appropriate authorities."
Know the laws related to animal abuse in Georgia
Animal cruelty can be a felony charge if a person knowingly and maliciously causes death or physical harm to an animal by rendering a part of the animal’s body useless or by seriously disfiguring the animal.
Call your municipal or county police department or county sheriff’s department, and the animal control office.
Veterinarians and veterinary technicians in the state of Georgia have civil lawsuit immunity for good faith reporting of animal cruelty.
What Can We Do As Veterinarians?
In the Exam Room
- Compare the animal’s injuries with the history given by the owner.
- Ask about the owner’s experiences with disciplining and housebreaking.
- Listen to the children’s responses to questions about their pet.
- Ask about other pets and their condition.
- Observe the interaction of family members.
- Animals with chronic untreated injuries or medical conditions.
- Clients who use the services of several veterinarians.
- Repeat clients who repeatedly bring "new" puppies.
- Injuries attributed to unknown causes (accidental injuries are frequently admitted while intentional injuries are blamed on unknown causes).
How to Help
- Let clients know you are aware of the link between domestic violence and animal abuse.
- Provide brochures regarding local services for victims of domestic violence.
- On your client information forms, ask your client if their pets are safe at home.
- Support your community by providing refuge for the animals belonging to victims of domestic violence.
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
National Network to End Domestic Violence
Statewide/county list of advocates and support contacts
Georgia Legal Services Program
Provides access to justice for Georgians with low incomes
Georgia Legal Professionals for Animals
Updated state animal cruelty laws
Humane Society of Georgia, Inc.
Information about animal cruelty and laws
Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Crisis line: 1.800.33.HAVEN (4.2836)
Helping Georgia victims find safe haven for their pets
Athens shelter for victims of domestic violence
Support Vets for Pets and People
Donations in support of Vets for Pets and People may be made via our secure, online giving website. Alternately, checks made payable to "UGA Foundation/Vets for Pets and People" may be mailed to:
Office of Development
College of Veterinary Medicine
The University of Georgia
Athens, GA 30602-7371
Vets for Pets and People is a grant-supported program of the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. Our primary mission is to educate veterinarians, veterinary paraprofessionals and the general public about the link between domestic violence and animal abuse.
Working with Project Safe, an Athens area domestic violence shelter, and a network of volunteers, we also provide temporary foster care to pets whose owners have sought shelter from domestic violence.
The content and opinions expressed on this Web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the University of Georgia or the University System of Georgia.