ArticlePDF Available

A Template Analysis of Intimate Partner Violence Survivors' Experiences of Animal Maltreatment: Implications for Safety Planning and Intervention

Authors:

Abstract

This study explores the intersection of intimate partner violence (IPV) and animal cruelty in an ethnically diverse sample of 103 pet-owning IPV survivors recruited from community-based domestic violence programs. Template analysis revealed five themes: (a) Animal Maltreatment by Partner as a Tactic of Coercive Power and Control, (b) Animal Maltreatment by Partner as Discipline or Punishment of Pet, (c) Animal Maltreatment by Children, (d) Emotional and Psychological Impact of Animal Maltreatment Exposure, and (e) Pets as an Obstacle to Effective Safety Planning. Results demonstrate the potential impact of animal maltreatment exposure on women and child IPV survivors' health and safety.
https://doi.org/10.1177/1077801217697266
Violence Against Women
1 –25
© The Author(s) 2017
Reprints and permissions:
sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav
DOI: 10.1177/1077801217697266
journals.sagepub.com/home/vaw
Research Article
A Template Analysis of
Intimate Partner Violence
Survivors’ Experiences
of Animal Maltreatment:
Implications for Safety
Planning and Intervention
Elizabeth A. Collins1, Anna M. Cody2, Shelby Elaine
McDonald2, Nicole Nicotera3, Frank R. Ascione3,
and James Herbert Williams3
Abstract
This study explores the intersection of intimate partner violence (IPV) and animal
cruelty in an ethnically diverse sample of 103 pet-owning IPV survivors recruited
from community-based domestic violence programs. Template analysis revealed
five themes: (a) Animal Maltreatment by Partner as a Tactic of Coercive Power
and Control, (b) Animal Maltreatment by Partner as Discipline or Punishment of
Pet, (c) Animal Maltreatment by Children, (d) Emotional and Psychological Impact
of Animal Maltreatment Exposure, and (e) Pets as an Obstacle to Effective Safety
Planning. Results demonstrate the potential impact of animal maltreatment exposure
on women and child IPV survivors’ health and safety.
Keywords
domestic violence, animal abuse, coercive control
1Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Denver, USA
2Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, USA
3University of Denver, CO, USA
Corresponding Author:
Shelby Elaine McDonald, School of Social Work, Virginia Commonwealth University, Academic Learning
Commons, 1000 Floyd Avenue, Third Floor, P.O. Box 842027, Richmond, VA 23284-2027, USA.
Email: smcdonald3@vcu.edu
697266VAWXXX10.1177/1077801217697266Violence Against WomenCollins et al.
research-article2017
2 Violence Against Women
Introduction
The use of violence and coercion against an intimate partner is a violation of human
rights and a serious global health issue (Guruge, 2012); moreover, intimate partner
violence (IPV) is one of the most prevalent types of violence against women. Recent
nationally representative research documents that 24% of women in the United States
have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime
(Breiding, Chen, & Black, 2014). Among studies of women’s IPV victimization, phys-
ical abuse experiences are most commonly examined. However, a large body of
research documents that IPV perpetrators use numerous tactics of domination and/or
coercion to entrap and harm their partners (Langhinrichsen-Rohling, 2010; Lindhorst
& Tajima, 2008; Pence & Paymar, 1986; Stark, 2007). In particular, perpetrators
engage more frequently in psychological or emotional forms of coercion than direct
physical or sexual violence (Coker, Smith, McKeown, & King, 2000). One well-doc-
umented tactic of coercive emotional and psychological abuse against female intimate
partners is cruelty and violence toward household pets, which can function as a method
of intimidation, control, and retaliation (Ascione et al., 2007; Onyskiw, 2007; Volant,
Johnson, Gullone, & Coleman, 2008). Despite empirical evidence of the strong attach-
ments that IPV survivors and their children experience with family pets (Faver &
Cavazos, 2007; McDonald et al., 2015), few qualitative studies have been intention-
ally designed to explore how women with children experience and respond to mal-
treatment of companion animals in the context of relationships characterized by IPV.
The aim of the current qualitative study was to advance the nascent research in this
area and acquire insights to assist service providers in safety planning and intervention
efforts with pet-owning IPV survivors. Our approach differs from and improves on
earlier work by utilizing a rigorous qualitative analytic process (i.e., template analysis)
and a large, ethnically diverse sample of 103 pet-owning women with school-age chil-
dren recruited from residential and non-residential community-based domestic vio-
lence (DV) services.
Pets in the Context of Family Violence
Irrespective of the presence or absence of IPV in a household, pet ownership is ubiq-
uitous, with representative national research indicating that 65% of U.S. homes include
companion animals (American Pet Products Association, 2016). Given the pervasive-
ness of pets in households and the epidemic rates of IPV (Breiding et al., 2014),
researchers have sought to establish the prevalence of intersecting animal maltreat-
ment and IPV. Several studies conducted in the United States, Ireland, and Australia
(e.g., Ascione et al., 2007; Carlisle-Frank, Frank, & Nielsen, 2004; Faver & Strand,
2003; Flynn, 2000b; Gallagher, Allen, & Jones, 2008; Volant et al., 2008) have found
that between 25% (Simmons & Lehmann, 2007) and 71% (Ascione, 1998) of pet-
owning women receiving services for IPV-victimization report having experienced
their partner threaten and/or harm a companion animal. Thus, the rate of threats against
and harm of companion animals by intimate partners has varied across studies, and
Collins et al. 3
these discrepancies are likely due to inconsistencies in sampling and surveying tech-
niques as well as cross-cultural variations in the role of companion animals in family
systems (Faver & Cavazos, 2007).
Scholars have theorized that animal abuse by IPV perpetrators is a mechanism of
coercion to influence an intimate partner, a reactive disciplinary response to animal
behavior, and/or a co-occurring form of family violence (DeGue, 2011; Hardesty,
Khaw, Ridgway, Weber, & Miles, 2013). Although research in this area is limited, such
hypotheses have been supported empirically through quantitative and qualitative find-
ings. Pertaining to animal maltreatment as a mechanism of coercive control, Ascione
et al. (2007) found that the women recruited from DV shelters had experienced their
partner harm a pet at higher rates (54%) than a control group of women recruited from
the community who were not abused by their intimate partners (5%). In a similar
study, Volant and colleagues (2008) compared rates of animal maltreatment among
women who had experienced IPV and women who had not experienced IPV victim-
ization. They reported that 52.9% of women who had experienced IPV reported ani-
mal maltreatment by a partner while none of the participants in the comparison group
reported animal maltreatment by an intimate partner (Volant et al., 2008). Research
suggests that IPV perpetrators may be more likely to use animal maltreatment as a
coercive tactic when their partner has a valued bond with the animal and/or an emo-
tional attachment to the animal that can be exploited. For example, Faver and Cavazos
(2007) surveyed women receiving IPV shelter services and found that 88% of partici-
pants who reported animal maltreatment by their partner identified the maltreated pet
as a “very important” source of emotional support; in contrast, only 51% of the women
in the sample who did not report maltreatment of pets by their abusive partner indi-
cated their pet was an important source of support. Notably, studies in this area suggest
that perpetrators who engage in animal abuse are more likely to execute other severe
IPV behaviors such as frequent sexual assault, emotional abuse, stalking (Ascione
et al., 2007; Simmons & Lehmann, 2007), and physical injury (Walton-Moss,
Manganello, Frye, & Campbell, 2005).
Data on adult and child IPV survivors also support that animal maltreatment
emerges in the context of violent households as a form of animal discipline. For exam-
ple, in a study of women accessing DV services, Carlisle-Frank et al. (2004) reported
that 75% of IPV perpetrators who abused pets also engaged in harsh physical punish-
ment of the animal. In addition, a recent qualitative study of school-age children
recruited from community-based IPV services reported that 24% of children in the
sample described exposure to maltreatment of companion animals that was perpe-
trated with the goal of disciplining or punishing pets for unwanted behaviors; most
often, children indicated that their mother’s abusive partner was the perpetrator of this
type of animal maltreatment (McDonald et al., 2015). Interestingly, there is a scarcity
of research examining this manifestation of animal maltreatment, and no studies to
date have specifically explored how women make meaning of harsh physical punish-
ment of companion animals in the context of their intimate relationships and/or how
emotional responses to this manifestation of animal-directed violence may influence
IPV survivors’ psychological health.
4 Violence Against Women
It is estimated that among U.S. households where companion animals are present,
63.2% consider pets to be members of the family (American Veterinary Medical
Association, 2012); therefore, it is reasonable to argue that abuse to companion ani-
mals, whether it emerges as a coercive control tactic against survivors and/or a disci-
pline/punishment tactic against animals, can be viewed as a distinct manifestation of
family violence that may complicate experiences of IPV and safety planning (McDonald
et al., 2015; McDonald, Graham-Bermann, Maternick, Ascione, & Williams, 2016). To
this end, a small body of qualitative research has provided evidence that various aspects
of animal maltreatment (e.g., coercive tactic to influence partner, co-occurring form of
family violence, reactive physical punishment of animal) often intersect and overlap
within IPV-affected households, resulting in significant negative implications for survi-
vors’ well-being (e.g., Flynn, 2000b; Hardesty et al., 2013; Tiplady, Walsh, & Phillips,
2015). For example, Flynn (2000b) conducted in-depth semi-structured interviews with
10 women residing in a U.S. DV shelter. The author reported the following themes
across participants: companion animals are seen as family members by IPV survivors,
companion animals were subject to a range of abusive behavior by IPV perpetrators,
women delay leaving their abusive relationship due to concerns about animals, and
women miss and worry about animals left behind after entering shelter. Similarly,
Hardesty et al. (2013) conducted qualitative interviews with 19 women residing in a
U.S. DV shelter and reported that IPV perpetrators’ use of pets as a control tactic was
an important factor that influenced women’s safety planning.
The inability of survivors to bring their pets to residential shelter services may
exacerbate risks and negative consequences associated with IPV and obfuscate survi-
vors’ decision making. A recent national survey of DV shelters reported that only 6%
of responding organizations allowed IPV survivors to bring their pets into shelter
(Krienert, Walsh, Matthews, & McConkey, 2012). As a result, the majority of pet-
owning survivors face the choice of having to relinquish animals or leave pets with
abusive partners when entering residential DV services (Faver & Strand, 2007). Across
studies, it is estimated that between 18% (Ascione, 1998) and 48% (Carlisle-Frank
et al., 2004) of pet-owning women have delayed entry into a DV shelter due to animal-
related concerns.
Taken as a whole, research in this area demonstrates that many survivors have
strong bonds with companion animals that are exploited by IPV perpetrators, maltreat-
ment of pets may have deleterious impacts on women’s psychological well-being, and
concerns for pets may operate as obstacles in survivors’ safety planning efforts.
However, research has not rigorously explored how women with children experience
maltreatment of animals in the context of relationships characterized by IPV and/or
how related concerns for pets impact parenting, women’s safety planning, and trauma
recovery. Research suggests that children living in homes where animal maltreatment
is present are more likely to perpetrate animal cruelty and model abusers’ violent con-
duct against animals (Petersen & Farrington, 2007; Tallichet & Hensley, 2004). This
may serve as an additional way that women experience animal maltreatment in the
context of their relationship and function as an added stressor that complicates survi-
vors’ psychological health and further compromises parenting (Holt, Buckley, &
Collins et al. 5
Whelan, 2008). In addition, while IPV survivors with children are less likely than
survivors without children to delay shelter entry because of their concerns for a mal-
treated pet (Ascione et al., 2007; Flynn, 2000b), their safety planning may be further
complicated after entering shelter if a child is separated from a companion animal to
whom he or she is attached (McDonald et al., 2015). To promote IPV services that are
adequately equipped to address the needs of pet-owning survivors and promote holis-
tic trauma-informed and trauma-specific care, additional research is needed to explore
the role of animal maltreatment in family systems where IPV is present.
Purpose of the Present Study
Qualitative studies are an important component of research on the nexus of IPV and
animal maltreatment and have the potential to illuminate the lived experiences of IPV
survivors as they navigate their own safety and that of their children and companion
animals. To our knowledge, only three studies (i.e., Flynn, 2000b; Hardesty et al.,
2013; Tiplady et al., 2015) to date have used a qualitative methodological approach to
explore the nexus of IPV and animal maltreatment; notably, only two of these studies
reported on their specific methodological orientation and qualitative analysis proce-
dures (i.e., Hardesty et al., 2013; Tiplady et al., 2015). Extending prevalence studies
and small-scale qualitative research in this area, the current study explores how women
with children experience animal abuse in the context of relationships characterized by
IPV as well as how concerns for animals impact survivors’ safety planning. Specifically,
our study was guided by the following research questions:
Research Question 1: How do women with children experience threats to and
harm of companion animals in relationships characterized by IPV?
Research Question 2: In what ways does concern for companion animals impact
decisions to stay with or leave a partner among IPV-surviving women with
children?
Method
Sample and Procedure
Qualitative data analyzed in this article were collected as part of a mixed-method phe-
nomenological research study designed to assess women and children’s experiences of
IPV and concomitant animal abuse. The overarching study used a concurrent model of
data collection to guide descriptive inquiry (Giorgi, 2009; Mayoh & Onwuegbuzie,
2015). Women accessing residential or non-residential DV services were recruited
from 22 DV agencies in a western U.S. state. In accordance with institutional review
board–approved protocol, specific agency staff were trained to recruit participants,
facilitate the consent/assent process, and administer semi-structured surveys. Women
who were over the age of 21 years, had at least one child between the ages of 7 and 12
years, and had a family pet in the last 12 months were eligible to participate in the
6 Violence Against Women
study. Participants who had more than one child between the ages of 7 and 12 years
selected one child to participate in the study and provided demographic, violence
exposure, and behavioral information specific to that child.
All surveys were administered in a private space at the DV agency where the par-
ticipant received services to allow for confidentiality. In consideration of the fact that
women in our study were coping with traumatic events, study procedures were
designed to maximize privacy and minimize risks and additional stress. Therefore,
audio and video data were not collected to enhance confidentiality and reduce the
potential burden on survey administrators and DV agencies. To promote choice, com-
fort, and privacy, participants had the option of writing their responses on a printed
form of the survey or having the survey administrator verbally administer the measure
and record their responses. In the latter case, survey administrators were instructed to
record the exact words of the participants by writing verbatim on the printed form.
Participant responses were typically succinct and none of the survey administrators
reported difficulty recording the exact words and phrases of the participants. Survey
materials were available in English and Spanish. Twenty percent of surveys were com-
pleted or verbally administered in Spanish. A professional translator provided English
translations of the qualitative data from surveys completed in Spanish. Participants
were compensated US$65 for their participation.
The data analyzed in this article reflect a portion of the overall survey schedule
for the larger study. Specifically, participants’ qualitative responses to the 28-item
Pet Treatment Survey (PTS; Ascione, 2011) were used in the current study. The
PTS is a measure that was designed purposefully for our study and expands upon
the Battered Partner Shelter Survey—Pet Maltreatment Assessment (BPSS; Ascione
& Weber, 1996). Specifically, the PTS was designed to assess experiences of mal-
treatment and care of companion animals in the context of IPV-affected households
as reported by women accessing residential or non-residential DV services. The
measure includes close-ended and open-ended questions pertaining to the follow-
ing areas: past pet ownership history (three questions; for example, “How many
pets have you had in the past 5 years?”); past veterinary care of pets (three ques-
tions; for example, “Do your pets have most of their vaccinations?”); negative and
positive treatment of animals in the household (nine questions; for example, “Has
your partner helped care for your pets?”); responses to animal maltreatment (eight
questions; “How did you feel after the pet was hurt or killed?”); the impact of con-
cern for animals on women’s decisions to leave or stay with a partner (one question;
“Does concern over your pet’s welfare affect your decision making about leaving
your partner?”); child exposure to animal maltreatment (two questions; for exam-
ple, “Have any of your other children ever seen or heard pets hurt or killed in the
home?”); and changes in their partner’s use of violence (two questions; for exam-
ple, “ Have you noticed any change in your partner’s willingness to threaten or hurt
a pet?”).
The current study focused specifically on participants’ responses to the following
three open-ended questions on the PTS: (1) Has your partner ever threatened to hurt
or kill one of your pets? (2) Has your partner ever actually hurt or killed a family
Collins et al. 7
pet? and (3) Did concern over your pet’s welfare keep you from coming to this shel-
ter sooner than now (for women accessing residential programs)? or Does concern
over your pet’s welfare affect your decision making about staying with or leaving
your partner (for women in non-residential services)? When items reflecting threats
and/or acts of violence against animals were endorsed, the survey (or interviewer,
when verbally administered) invited the participant to provide additional informa-
tion with the following statement: “Please describe the incident(s) in as much detail
as possible.” Qualitative responses to the other 10 open-ended items on the PTS
were also examined in the current study given that responses to questions at other
points in the survey provided important contextual information needed to gain a
holistic understanding of participants’ experiences as they pertained to our research
questions.
Sample Description1
A total of 103 women (35.4% of the sample from the larger study) indicated on the PTS
that their partner had (a) threatened to harm or kill their pet and/or (b) actually hurt or
killed their pet, and provided qualitative data on their experiences of threats and/or harm
to their pets by an intimate partner. Data from this subset of women were analyzed for
the current study. Participants in the qualitative sample represented a range of racial/
ethnic identities (53.4%, White; 33%, Hispanic/Latina; 8.7%, more than one race; 1.9%,
American Indian or Alaska Native; 1%, African American or Black and Asian) and
ranged in age from 21-56 years (M = 36.62, SD = 7.54). The majority of the participants
(67.1%) reported an annual household income less than US$30,000 (28.2% reported
<US$10K; 38.9%, US$10K-US$29K; 21.4%, US$30K-US$49K; and 8.8%, > US$50K)
and more than half (58.3%) indicated they had earned a high school degree or had
attended some college (9.7% sixth grade or less; 14.5% some high school; 35% gradu-
ated from high school; 23.3% attended some college; 13.6% completed bachelor’s
degree; 2.9% completed master’s degree). Women in the sample reported experiencing
IPV for an average of 9.94 years (SD = 7.44). On average, participants had 2.5 children:
52% of household children were boys and 48% were girls. The majority of women
(63%) reported that at least one of her children had seen or heard animals hurt or killed
in the home.
Analysis
ATLAS.ti (Version 7.5.10) was used to conduct template analysis (King, 1998, 2012),
an approach commonly used in social science research to analyze large qualitative
data sets while honoring the voices of research participants. This method of organizing
and analyzing qualitative data is compatible with phenomenologically oriented
research designs centered on descriptive inquiry (Brooks & King, 2012). Template
analysis allows the researcher to pursue open coding guided by a set of foci centered
on the research question(s) or to compare observed data with a theoretically predicted
template of a priori codes (King, 2012).
8 Violence Against Women
Qualitative Analytic Steps
Following an initial immersion into the data, the first two authors developed a tem-
plate of a priori codes guided by the open-ended PTS questions, empirical literature on
the intersection of IPV and animal abuse, and our research questions. The coding tem-
plate was then refined through a multi-stage process. In each stage, two coders inde-
pendently applied the template to a randomly selected set of 10 transcripts; then, the
analysis team conducted a review of the coding results through a peer-debriefing pro-
cess (Padgett, 2008). During peer-debriefing, additional codes were identified from
discoveries in the data that had not yet been captured by the coding template. In addi-
tion, inconsistencies in code application were addressed through refinement of code
definitions with reference to established literature. Modifications to the coding tem-
plate were made based on findings from peer-debriefing. In total, the coding template
was cycled through this process four times before team consensus was reached on the
template. The first two authors independently applied the final coding template
(44 codes grouped into five code families) to the entire data set (103 transcripts).
After the full data set had been coded, the team reviewed the data for mismatched
coding and made adjustments using the peer-debriefing process. In addition, 10 tran-
scripts were selected at random and an interrater reliability analysis was performed
using the Coding Analysis Toolkit (CAT; Lu & Shulman, 2008). The CAT tool enables
users to upload coded ATLAS.ti documents and compare reliability between raters;
Krippendorff’s Alpha (KALPHA) was selected because it is robust in correcting for
chance during the coding process involving two or more coders (Hayes & Krippendorff,
2007). The analysis resulted in a KALPHA coefficient of .90.
Themes pertaining to the research questions were identified in the coded data set
through analysis of patterns found between codes and among coded segments as well
as through code use frequencies. Each theme was identified and verified through team
consensus. In total, five themes emerged from this process.
Results
Descriptive Information About Exposure to Animal Maltreatment
Among the 103 participants completing the PTS, 75% of participants experienced
their partner threatening a companion animal; 66% experienced their partner harming
a companion animal; 16% experienced an animal having been neglected; and 11%
reported an animal having been killed (not including hunting). Of note, 41% of partici-
pants reported that their partner had used or threatened to use an object other than a
firearm to hurt or kill an animal. Only two participants indicated any accidental inci-
dents of animal harm by a partner.
Research Question 1
Our first research question pertained to how women with children experience threats
to and harm of companion animals in households where IPV occurs. Four themes
emerged related to the context of exposure.
Collins et al. 9
Theme 1: Animal Maltreatment by Partner as a Tactic of Coercive Power and Control.
When reporting incidents in which their partner had made threats against and/or
harmed an animal, many participants (n = 21; 20.4%) described2 how the incident was
precipitated by their partner’s desire to quell or retaliate against their behaviors.
Just last week he was upset because I went to the store without him. He said he was going
to burn the bird’s wings because I had disobeyed him. (Participant 22)
Right before Christmas I had called my brother in Mexico to wish them happy holidays
when he [partner] walked in the door and heard me. He got so upset he started pushing
me and punching the wall. He said since one of the most important things to me was my
dog [that] he would burn it by tying it up to the grill and turning it on in the back yard so
that I learned my lesson to not ever call my brother again. (Participant 8)
Cuando no le hago caso o no le gusta la comida que preparo, agarra al gato y lo avienta
contra la pared o lo patalea. Para hacerme enojar, dice que es mi castigo. / When I ignore
him [partner] or he doesn’t like the food I cook, he grabs the cat and throws it against the
wall or kicks it. To make me angry, he says that it’s my punishment. (Participant 28)
As exemplified above, many participants noted that their partner’s use of animal
maltreatment as a coercive tactic was rooted in a reactive emotional response to dis-
pleasure with the participant’s actions. In some cases, participants described their part-
ner’s use of animal maltreatment as strictly instrumental in nature and as a tactic that
was used to coerce their behavioral compliance. When elaborating on such events,
many participants provided information that suggested their partner exhibited marked
ongoing or episodic callousness toward the victim and the companion animal.
One time, he [partner] threatened to burn the dog if I did not give him oral sex. He said
he was going to tie up the dog to the grill and roast it. (Participant 27)
The first time I left my partner, he was the one caring for my dog. If I didn’t tell him
where I was, he threatened to snap her neck or shoot her. (Participant 100)
On one occasion, because I would not give him the grocery receipt, he went to grab the
bird and was plucking feathers, one by one, until I gave him the receipt. (Participant 30)
Participants also described their partner’s acts and threats of animal maltreatment
to coerce compliance with their emotional demands. As demonstrated in the following
quotes, several participants recounted that their partner expressed jealousy regarding
their relationship with a companion animal in conjunction with threats against and/or
harm to a pet:
He constantly said “you care about those pets more than me. [Partner said] I might as well
drown or choke them to death,” and he also threatened to kick the pets, too. (Participant 14)
10 Violence Against Women
Hace 8 meses, yo estaba en mi casa y el llego y yo tenia el perro en mis brazos y el
se molesto diciendo que si el perro me daba lo que el no me daba y agarro el perro
del pelo y lo avento al suelo / 8 months ago, I was at home and was holding the dog
in my arms when he came and got angry, saying that the dog was giving me what he
was not giving me, and grabbed the dog by the hair and threw him on the floor.
(Participant 24)
Collectively, partners’ use of coercive tactics involving animals often created an
environment which restricted participants’ ability to provide their desired level of
caregiving for pets, and led some families to relinquish animals.
He said he spanked the dog but accidentally too hard. But, I think he kicked him [dog]
because I came home and his [dog’s] leg was broken. Then he [partner] wouldn’t let me
take him to the vet and said he would kill him if I did. I ended up taking (the dog to the
shelter and pretending I found him. I later had to go back and adopt him. He [partner]
would grab the cats hard and shake them around. One time he used an exacto knife to cut
a mat out of the cat’s fur and he cut his [cat’s] skin open. (Participant 88)
Theme 2: Animal Maltreatment by Partner to Discipline or Punish Pet.
Participants (n = 41; 39.8%) also discussed animal maltreatment by partners that was
aimed to punish a pet for behaviors their partner found undesirable. The types of
behaviors for which animals were punished ranged extensively and included typical
animal behavior (e.g., meowing for food) as well as destructive, aggressive, and
anxiety- or fear-related behaviors (e.g., hiding).
A kitten wouldn’t come out from under the couch and he [partner] drug it out and threw it
across the room. It required medical attention . . . . I came home one day and (cat’s) nose
was bleeding and there was blood on the wall. My gut feeling is that he hurt her on purpose.
He would pick her up by the tail and force her to cuddle with him. (Participant 65)
The Lab (dog) chewed a shoe of his and he grabbed the dog by the collar outside and
punched her in the head so that her head hit the side of the house and kicked her until she
puked. (Participant 57)
Interestingly, some participants represented in this theme noted that their partner’s use
of physical punishment of the animal occurred when pets behaved aggressively toward
family members, toward objects, or toward the perpetrator himself. For example,
He was a big dog and didn’t always follow instruction. So if he didn’t follow a command,
[my] partner would kick the dog, and hit him with things. Sometimes the dog would
attack us, so he (partner) would defend himself. (Participant 1)
The Dog chewed up his shoe. He said he was going to hang her in the front yard. He
punched a few of the dogs in the face when they snapped at the kids. (Participant 77)
Collins et al. 11
In some cases, punishment of an animal was directly related to the animal’s response
to incidents of IPV. For example, the following quotes demonstrate incidents when the
partner physically maltreated an animal to punish the animal for attempting to protect
the participant during a violent incident:
When the dog was a puppy he would hit him with a shoe to discipline him. Sometimes he
used a broom. Sometimes the dog would bite my partner when my partner attacked me
and then he would turn on the dog. (Participant 85)
He would kick or slap the dog. I would step in and stop him. About 4 months ago he
would hurt the dog when the dog would attack him for hitting me. (Participant 71)
Across and within Themes 1-2, many participants also reported experiencing multiple
incidents of animal treatment that were carried out in diverse ways (e.g., abuse, killing,
neglect, threats with firearms).
The dog had multiple cracked teeth from him [partner] punching her in the face. He
would stand on the dog’s neck and stomp her ribs. He would pick her up with her excess
skin and swing her over his head and slam her back on the ground . . . . He would lock
cats in the kennel and shake it. The dog had a litter and he broke one of the puppies’ paws
by throwing it. He would rub the dog’s snout in her pee until her nose was raw. He would
make the dog eat her own fecal matter if she went [to the bathroom] in the house. He also
had two gerbils that turned cannibalistic because of neglect and, after leaving a carcass in
the cage for three months, he drowned the other and its babies. (Participant 105)
Theme 3: Animal Maltreatment by Children.
Concurrent to experiencing their abusive relationship, nearly a quarter (n = 23; 23%)
of participants in the sample also reported observing children in the household engage
in maltreatment of pets.
She’s done it herself [child participant]. She has hit and thrown and squeezed the pets
herself. It’s almost like she’s trying to cuddle with them. Then she squeezes them harder
when they try to get away. That’s what I thought at first but then she hit them too.
(Participant 18)
She [child] was sitting on the dog and yelling at him, and about to choke him. 4 years ago.
5 years old. (Participant 68)
Among participants represented in this theme, some reported attempting to intervene
in incidents of child-perpetrated animal maltreatment and/or making efforts to redirect
child behaviors and encourage children to treat pets humanely. In addition to self-
reporting on how they intervened in cases of animal maltreatment by children, some
participants described other children in the household intervening in such incidents.
For example, one woman stated,
12 Violence Against Women
The 12-year-old has been rough with the cat, too. She’ll throw the cat down. I told her
you can’t treat a cat or a person that way. She throws the cat down for no reason. It’s
unnecessarily rough. It happens way too much for it to just be the cat (scratching, biting).
The 12-year-old will say “we’re just playing. The cat doesn’t mind.” The youngest one
doesn’t hurt the cat. She’ll tell the others not to hurt the cat. (Participant 18)
Furthermore, among those who recounted a child engaging in animal maltreatment,
some participants’ responses attempted to contextualize their child’s treatment of
animals.
I feel that my child restrains our dog—hugs him too tight even if the dog doesn’t want it.
I feel like my child needs to control something, so he controls the dog, but does not mean
to hurt him. (Participant 93)
Notably, several participants represented in this theme stated that they perceived their
child to be modeling their partner’s maltreatment of animals and/or harming animals
because the abusive caregiver encouraged such behavior. Similar to IPV perpetrators’
animal maltreatment behaviors, children also engaged in a diverse range of
behaviors.
The 5-year-old will lose his temper and hit the dog—the same dog his father hits.
(Participant 10)
At our house my other child [has] stabbed, thrown, and squeezed my dog because he
witnessed it from his father. (Participant 98)
He (my son) hurt the cat because his dad told him to. (Participant 70)
Theme 4: Animal Maltreatment Exposure’s Emotional and Psychological Impact.
Participants frequently reported that the experience of animal maltreatment in the con-
text of IPV had a deleterious impact on their emotional and psychological well-being
(n = 21; 20.4%). When pets were threatened or harmed by the abusive partner, partici-
pants in our study often described complex negative emotional responses involving
concurrent feelings of anger, sadness, and/or anxiety. Participant 84 stated, “Estaba
enojada y preocupada / I was angry and worried.” In some cases, participants described
the negative emotional impact on the family as a whole.
The family would cry a lot when he’d [partner] put the animal outside or he’d abuse the
dog. (Participant 59)
Also, the emotional impact of animal maltreatment on participants, coupled with
empathy for the pet, led some participants to take action to change or prevent their
partner’s interactions with their pet(s).
Collins et al. 13
I stopped letting him [partner] walk her because he was too mean to her. I stopped letting
[him] walk her. He chokes her. That could be why she cowers around him. He says,
“She’s just a dog!” I can’t stand to see somebody hurt her. I think almost seeing him do
that to her reminds me of how he treated me. (Participant 11)
Research Question 2
Our second research question pertained to ways in which participants’ concerns about
companion animals impacted their decision to stay with or leave a partner. One promi-
nent theme emerged in relation to this question.
Theme 5: Pets as an Obstacle to Effective Safety Planning.
Concern for pets prevented some participants (n = 39; 38%) from being able to
engage in effective safety planning due to their partner’s use of animal maltreatment
as a tactic of coercive power and control (Theme 1). In the context of coercive con-
trol, many participants feared or were certain that their partner would harm or kill a
pet to retaliate for their suspected and/or carried out actions to leave the relationship.
For example, a participant in non-residential services gave the following response
when asked whether concern over her pet’s welfare affected her decision about leav-
ing her partner:
He is very controlling over me. So if he even suspects of me leaving or staying somewhere
else he will start to torture the cat and dog until he is convinced that I am not leaving him.
I can’t leave or he will kill them. (Participant 47)
Participants also reported on how their safety planning involving pets delayed their
ability to access DV shelter services and/or increased the duration of their time resid-
ing with the abusive partner. These descriptions often centered on participants’ lack of
access to safe pet-sheltering services (e.g., temporary pet-fostering programs) and the
inability to access shelters or housing that would accept pets. The following quotes
demonstrate how concern for pets’ welfare resulted in women, children, and/or pets
remaining in abusive environments longer than desired and/or being homeless due to
their inability to access services that shelter pets.
I wasn’t going to leave unless I could take the pets with me. So I had to find a place for
all of us. I’d be worried he would take violence out on the dog. (Participant 87)
When I left, I took the dog with me because I was afraid of what he would do to her to get
back at me. I had to make many arrangements to make sure the dog had somewhere safe
to stay. (Participant 9)
I lived in my car until I found someone to take in my dog, then I went to the [domestic
violence] shelter. (Participant 74)
14 Violence Against Women
[I] knew I could not leave the pet with him. Twice I had to take a pet to the pet shelter or
Craigslist. (Participant 67)
As illustrated in the above quotes, concerns for pets in the absence of pet-sheltering
services resulted in several participants looking to other community or web-based
resources to find safe options for pets to alleviate their fears and worries related to
potential violence toward and/or neglect of the pet in their absence. Interestingly, one
participant described an opportunity to place her pet in a foster home, which then
facilitated her access to a DV shelter:
I was hesitant [to go to a DV shelter] until I talked with someone who helped me get my
one dog in the shelter for a foster home. (Participant 99)
A few participants also noted that concerns about being able to financially care for
pets and/or children on their own challenged their ability to engage in safety planning
involving pets. One woman stated,
Everything financial, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to take care of my daughter and
the dog on my own. (Participant 106)
In addition to financial concerns, when participants described how concern for a pet
delayed or prevented leaving the relationship or seeking shelter services, emotional
responses to animal maltreatment (Theme 4) and emotional bonds with pets were
often evoked. Within this theme, some participants also expressed that safety planning
was influenced as a result of their child or children’s attachment to pets in the home.
For example, one woman noted,
I did not have anywhere to go and when I went into a shelter they did not allow pets so,
since my son was crying for the pets, I returned home until I had enough money to rent
an apartment. (Participant 86)
As exemplified in this quote, for some mothers, safety planning was complicated by
children’s attachment to and relationships with pets, as well as their own concerns for
the animal.
Discussion
Our study examined experiences of animal maltreatment among pet-owning IPV sur-
vivors who have children, with specific attention to the ways in which concerns for
pets impact women’s decisions to stay with or leave their partner. Our findings shed
light on the multifaceted nature of women’s experiences of animal maltreatment in
the context of relationships characterized by IPV as well as the impact of pets’ wel-
fare and the human–animal bond on IPV survivors’ safety planning. Pertaining to our
first research question, which centered on how women with children experience
Collins et al. 15
animal maltreatment in households where IPV is present, nearly 20% of participants
described animal maltreatment actions that were used as a coercive tactic by the IPV
perpetrator to punish or control the participant’s actions and behaviors (Theme 1).
Women also reported experiencing animal maltreatment perpetrated by their partner
outside of coercive incidents; in particular, nearly 40% recounted that their partner’s
threats against or cruelty toward the animal were perpetrated to punish or discipline
the pet for undesired behaviors, which emerged as our second theme. Experiencing
animal maltreatment at the hands of children in the household was also a theme
among women in the sample (23%), with several women reporting that they per-
ceived their child to be modeling observed animal maltreatment by an abusive partner
(Theme 3). Notably, women also reported on the emotional and psychological impact
of their complex and distressing exposure to animal maltreatment in the context of
IPV, which emerged as Theme 4.
Participants recounted threats or harm to animals as both reactive and instrumen-
tal behavior related to jealousy and controlling the basic activities of life, including
phone contact with a relative, grocery shopping, and preparation of meals. This
theme aligned with Stark’s (2007) assertion that an important facet of coercive con-
trol involves the regulation of domestic roles and establishment of a generalized
environment of disempowerment. Moreover, our findings support Flynn’s (2000b)
assertion that perpetrators commonly make emotional demands on partners and mis-
treat animals as expressions of jealousy. Interestingly, our findings also mirror prior
studies reporting different pathways to IPV perpetration and underlying self-regula-
tory processes (e.g., Chase, O’Leary, & Heyman, 2001; Finkel, DeWall, Slotter,
Oaten, & Foshee, 2009; Kelly & Johnson, 2008). In particular, some participants
described their partner’s impulsive and emotionally reactive aggressive behaviors
toward animals, which may reflect compromised self-regulatory processes that lead
to retaliatory behaviors (Finkel et al. 2009). Others described incidents of callous
aggression in which partners engaged in strategic, planned actions and animals
served as instruments of aggression to coerce the survivor (Chase et al., 2001).
Instrumental and reactive aggression involving animals rarely overlapped in partici-
pants’ accounts.
Consistent with Ascione et al.’s (2007) quantitative findings, many women in our
sample reported that perpetrators who used animal maltreatment as a coercive tactic
also used other severe IPV tactics. For example, participants frequently stated that
firearms and other weapons were present during animal maltreatment incidents and
used against the participant and animal, sometimes in the presence of children. The use
of animals as a means to control, punish, and frighten women parallels IPV offenders’
documented use of children to control, punish, and intimidate their partners via meth-
ods such as showing jealousy regarding the survivor’s relationship with their children,
threatening to take children away, or harming children (Ahlfs-Dunn & Huth-Bocks,
2012). Similar to how IPV involving children has been conceptualized as a distinct
type of abuse overlapping with IPV (Ahlfs-Dunn & Huth-Bocks, 2012), our findings
suggest that IPV involving animals is a distinct yet overlapping form of violence
occurring in family systems.
16 Violence Against Women
The most prevalent form of animal maltreatment described by women in our sample
was harsh physical punishment of pets. Consistent with prior research, across and within
participants’ descriptions, women reported that IPV perpetrators engaged in a variety of
acts of animal cruelty including threats, harm, neglect, and killing as a result of displea-
sure with typical animal behaviors (e.g., meowing) and/or animal misbehavior (e.g.,
urinating on carpet). In particular, our findings parallel that of Carlisle-Frank and col-
leagues’ (2004), who found that perpetrators of family violence who also abused pets
demonstrated “unrealistic expectations” of animals, resulting in typical animal behaviors
(e.g., barking) being met with frequent and aggressive correction by the abusive partner.
This finding highlights a cycle previously described by DeGue (2011), in which harsh
punishment of the animal reinforces the pet’s aggressive behavior and may contribute to
the increased likelihood of other family members using harsh physical punishment and
reactive approaches when interacting with animals in the household. DeGue argues that
multidirectional violence involving companion animals is cultivated and rewarded
through this cycle, and may be one mechanism through which children’s perpetration of
animal maltreatment (Theme 3) is promoted. Other scholars (e.g., Gerard, Krishnakumar,
& Buehler, 2006) suggest that mothers in homes where pets are subjected to harsh pun-
ishment may also witness the harsh physical punishment of their children. Jarvis,
Gordon, and Novaco (2005) reported that maternal exposure to harsh physical punish-
ment of their child(ren) was associated with increased anxiety among IPV survivors.
Given the strong bond of survivors with their pets as well as expressed feelings of
responsibility for the pet’s welfare, we hypothesize that exposure to harsh physical dis-
cipline of animals may have a similar impact on survivors’ psychological health.
Although prior research has reported on mothers’ knowledge of their child(ren)’s
animal cruelty (Ascione, 1998; Flynn, 2000b; Volant et al., 2008), our study is the first
qualitative investigation to support that animal maltreatment by children is another dis-
tinct way that parenting IPV survivors experience harm to companion animals. Of par-
ticular note is the finding that several mothers perceived their child’s maltreatment of
pets to be a modeled behavior that the child acted out as a consequence of exposure to
their partner’s animal maltreatment rather than as perceived callousness or intentional
cruelty. This finding supports a social learning model of intergenerational transmission
of animal maltreatment behaviors and is consistent with prior quantitative research
documenting elevated rates of animal abuse among children living in households where
IPV occurs (Ascione, 1998; Currie, 2006; Faver & Strand, 2003; Renner & Slack,
2006). Future research is needed to explore how the intergenerational transmission of
self-regulation processes (Boutwell & Beaver, 2010) and callous/unemotional traits
(Henry, Pingault, Boivin, Rijsdijk, & Viding, 2016) may interplay with exposure to
parental conflict and animal maltreatment to influence child survivors’ maltreatment of
pets and future relationship behaviors. Overall, our findings pertaining to this theme
suggest that the attributions mothers make regarding their children’s maltreatment of
animals may have implications for understanding IPV survivors’ level of parenting
stress, perceived self-efficacy, and quality of the mother–child relationship.
Our finding regarding the emotional impact of witnessing animal maltreatment cor-
responds with previous research indicating that household members often form close
Collins et al. 17
bonds with companion animals, especially when companion animals are thought of as
family members (Ascione, 1998; Flynn, 2000b). Moreover, this study replicates ear-
lier research reporting that emotional pain and psychological distress are experienced
by survivors (Tiplady et al., 2015) and their children (McDonald et al., 2015), who
witness or have knowledge of harm to companion animals in IPV-affected households.
Our data suggest that when animals were punished for “attacking” offenders who were
simultaneously perpetrating acts of physical violence against participants (i.e., “about
4 months ago he would hurt the dog when the dog would attack him for hitting me”),
descriptions of emotional distress were common among survivors who felt that their
bond with their pet may have contributed to the animal’s involvement and subsequent
mistreatment (i.e., “I felt sad because the cat was just trying to protect me”). Thus, this
finding parallels results from recent qualitative research on children’s experiences of
animal maltreatment (i.e., McDonald et al., 2015) and, like child survivors of IPV,
women in our study reported living within a duality of finding support in their bond
with a companion animal while also being at increased risk of having that bond
exploited by their partner.
Pets as an obstacle to effective safety planning emerged as a theme (Theme 5) across
residential and non-residential participants and illuminated our second research ques-
tion, which examined how survivors’ decision to stay with or leave a partner was
impacted by the presence of their pet(s). This finding is consistent with prior research
(e.g., Ascione, 1998; Flynn, 2000b; Hardesty et al., 2013) and of particular importance
given that all participants were parenting school-age children. Among women exposed
to IPV and animal abuse, parenting status has been shown to influence the timing of
their shelter entry, with women who do not have children delaying shelter entry more
frequently than their parenting peers (Ascione et al., 2007). Nonetheless, our findings
provide evidence that attachment to and concern for pets impacted parenting survivors’
safety planning efforts in multiple ways, and often influenced them to stay with or
return to an abusive partner. Specifically, concern for pets impacted participants’ ability
to stay safe while in a relationship, influenced their planning to leave the abusive rela-
tionship, and/or impacted efforts to remain safe after leaving the abusive partner.
Survivors in this study also shared examples of safety planning on behalf of pets while
still in a relationship with their abusive partner, including relinquishing pets. Extending
prior research in this area, our findings highlight survivors’ use of various community
supports and online resources to address safety for their pet in addition to their own safety
planning. In addition, our findings suggest that children’s emotional bond to their pets
may influence their mother’s ongoing safety planning, especially in situations where chil-
dren exhibit emotional distress after being separated from their pet following a transition
to shelter services. Finally, prior research suggests that IPV survivors’ concerns for ani-
mals may persist over time following their initial separation from the partner as IPV per-
petrators attempt to use animal maltreatment as a means to retaliate against and punish
their partner for leaving the relationship (Roguski, 2012). Although this did not emerge as
a theme in our data, the potential ongoing exploitation of the human–animal bond is
important to consider given that these acts of post-separation maltreatment of animals
may have ongoing negative impacts on IPV survivors’ safety (Roguski, 2012).
18 Violence Against Women
Limitations
As with prior studies (Faver & Cavazos, 2007; Flynn, 2000b; Volant et al., 2008), we
utilized a convenience sample recruited from multiple DV service organizations
within a single U.S. state. Thus, findings from this study should be interpreted with
caution, as the themes that emerged in our data may not speak to the experiences of
pet-owning IPV survivors who do not seek community-based services, including
those whose pets may function as a more salient obstacle to accessing IPV services.
In addition, using maternal reports of prior animal maltreatment experiences, this
study relies on retrospective self-reports. Our methodology could have been strength-
ened by tracking whether participants completed the PTS verbally or in writing, and
by video or audio recording verbally administered surveys to allow participants’ emo-
tional expressions and non-verbal communication to be transcribed. Furthermore, a
central limitation of our study is the use of the PTS to guide participants’ responses.
This measure was designed to examine a wide range of areas related to the care and
treatment of pets. Thus, there are a number of additional and/or alternative questions
(e.g., How does it make you feel when you witness your child harming a pet?) and
prompts that could have been integrated into our interview procedures to expand
knowledge regarding our central research questions. In particular, asking more pre-
cise questions, that evaluated partners’ harm and killing of pets separately, may have
generated greater knowledge of the motives and antecedents of animal-directed vio-
lence in the home.
Implications for Practice and Research
Practice
Our findings have important implications for DV advocacy organizations, social
workers who serve families experiencing IPV, law enforcement, animal control offi-
cers, veterinarians, and other professionals who regularly come into contact with fami-
lies and their companion animals. DV shelter organizations should continue to build
collaborative networks with local animal support services, and develop safe sheltering
options for families exposed to IPV and their pets. Specifically, our finding that weap-
ons (i.e., firearms) were frequently used during animal maltreatment, and that women
and children’s concern for and emotional attachment to companion animals delayed or
impacted safety planning decisions, indicates that shelter services should consider the
value of developing co-sheltering programs, such as Sheltering Animals and Families
Together (SAF-T; Phillips, 2015), which allow families and companion animals to
stay together while in shelter. Advocates and counselors can also help survivors
address potential feelings of guilt and/or responsibility for maltreatment of the animal
in the context of IPV. In addition, continued efforts are needed to increase awareness
among mental health professionals, educators, and veterinarians about the linkages
between IPV and animal maltreatment so that clients’ concerns about animal maltreat-
ment are taken seriously and efforts are made to uncover potential IPV and offer
Collins et al. 19
support for clients seeking to protect their animals (McDonald et al., 2015). Finally,
given the bonds between adult and child survivors and their pets, intervention efforts
should help survivors and children process trauma associated with animal maltreat-
ment, death, or relinquishment, and nurture survivors’ bonds with children to promote
resilience (Groves, 1999), especially among families with histories of child animal
maltreatment behaviors.
Research
Taken as a whole, our findings point to the need for additional studies to advance mea-
surement of women and children’s exposure to, response to, and perpetration of ani-
mal maltreatment. Our study, alongside prior work, provides evidence in support of
the need for revisions to measures such as the PTS to identify multiple types, motives,
and perpetrators of animal maltreatment, as well as behavioral and emotional responses
to such events. In addition, our finding that weapons (i.e., firearms) were frequently
used during animal maltreatment incidents indicates a need for future research on the
usage of weapons in animal maltreatment, and the potential exacerbating impact of
concomitant exposure to weapons on children and women’s psychological, behav-
ioral, and physical health.
Unlike maternal exposure to abuse and physical discipline of children (Jarvis et al.,
2005), the impact of women’s exposure to harsh physical discipline of animals is
largely unexplored. However, the human–animal bond can mirror the mother–child
bond and, for some IPV survivors, witnessing the abuse of their companion animals
may create experiences and outcomes such as anxiety that are similar to the impact of
witnessing harm to their child (e.g., see Jarvis et al., 2005). Future studies should
explore the compounding effects of survivors’ witnessing of maltreatment of their
child and companion animals, and how such cumulative abuse may have distinct
effects on trauma symptoms (Scott-Storey, 2011). In addition, the literature has not yet
robustly explored IPV-surviving mothers’ awareness of their children’s exposure to
animal abuse. A valuable contribution of future work would be to explore how moth-
ers’ knowledge of their child’s exposure to animal maltreatment influences survivors’
psychological well-being and parenting self-efficacy. Future research should also con-
sider how animal maltreatment by abusive partners is used to influence children, and
how such acts function as an additional form of coercion by the IPV perpetrator.
Moreover, the psychological impact associated with children’s exposure to this form
of coercive parenting should be examined, as well as the impact on mothers who wit-
ness IPV perpetrators engaging in coercive parenting involving maltreatment of com-
panion animals. To better understand and serve women who survive IPV, future studies
should also explore the impact of witnessing children engage in animal cruelty on
survivors’ psychological well-being and how witnessing such behavior might under-
mine their confidence as parents or activate a trauma response when their child(ren)’s
behaviors mimic those of the perpetrator. In addition, research is needed to understand
how children’s concern for companion animals may influence mothers’ safety plan-
ning decisions.
20 Violence Against Women
Finally, researchers such as Finkelhor and colleagues (Finkelhor, Shattuck, Turner,
& Hamby, 2013; Finkelhor, Turner, Shattuck, & Hamby, 2015) argue that co-occurring
forms of violence are important to consider in the context of understanding the short-
and long-term behavioral and psychological health outcomes associated with violence
exposure. Many studies (e.g., Edleson, Shin, & Johnson Armendariz, 2008) consider
women and children’s experiences of animal abuse as one manifestation of IPV in the
home. Findings presented in this study demonstrate that exposure to animal maltreat-
ment is, at times, distinct from IPV-related experiences. Moreover, IPV-surviving
women and children have important bonds and relationships with their pet(s) that are
meaningful and separate from relationships with other members of the household. Due
to the salience of the human–animal bond and multiple motives and antecedents per-
taining to violent animal-related incidents in households experiencing IPV, we advo-
cate that animal maltreatment exposure be explored as a distinct form of violence
exposure so that future research and practice can more holistically prevent, assess,
and/or remedy family violence.
Authors’ Note
The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the
official views of the National Institutes of Health or the American Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
Acknowledgment
The authors would like to thank the community-based domestic violence advocates for their
contribution to this work.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship,
and/or publication of this article.
Funding
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship,
and/or publication of this article: This research was funded by Grant 5R01-HD-66503-4 from
the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
(NICHD) and Grant 2015-0709 from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Animals (ASPCA).
Notes
1. Maternal and child data were ascertained from a demographic survey completed by the
mother.
2. Identifying information such as names of pets and family members has been replaced.
Clarifying information is provided in parentheses and brackets.
Collins et al. 21
References
Ahlfs-Dunn, S., & Huth-Bocks, A. C. (2012). Psychological violence against women by inti-
mate partners: The use of children to victimize their mothers. In H. R. Cunningham & W.
F. Berry (Eds.), Handbook on the psychology of violence (pp. 123-144). New York: Nova
Science Publishers.
American Pet Products Association. (2016). 2015-2016 APPA national pet owners survey.
Greenwich, CT: Author.
American Veterinary Medical Association. (2012). Pet ownership & demographics sourcebook.
Schaumberg, IL: Author.
Ascione, F. R. (1998). Battered women’s reports of their partners’ and their children’s cruelty
of animals. Journal of Emotional Abuse, 1, 119-132.
Ascione, F. R. (2011). Pet treatment survey (Unpublished rating scale).Denver, CO: University
of Denver.
Ascione, F. R., & Weber, C. V. (1996). Children’s attitudes about the humane treatment of animals
and empathy: One-year follow up of a school-based intervention. Anthrozoös, 9, 188-195.
Ascione, F. R., Weber, C. V., Thompson, T., Heath, J., Maruyama, M., & Hayashi, K. (2007).
Battered pets and domestic violence: Animal abuse reported by women experiencing
intimate violence and by non-abused women. Violence Against Women, 13, 354-373.
doi:10.1177/1077801207299201
Boutwell, B. B., & Beaver, K. M. (2010). The intergenerational transmission of low self-control.
Journal of Research in Crime & Delinquency, 47, 174-209. doi:10.1177/0022427809357715
Breiding, M. J., Chen, J., & Black, M. C. (2014). Intimate partner violence in the United
States—2010. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention.
Brooks, J., & King, N. (2012, April). Qualitative psychology in the real world: The utility
of template analysis. Paper presented at the 2012 British Psychological Society Annual
Conference, London, England. Retrieved from http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/13656/1/Brooks__
King_QMiP_2012_Final.pdf
Carlisle-Frank, P., Frank, J. M., & Nielsen, L. (2004). Selective battering of the family pet.
Anthrozoös, 17, 26-42.
Chase, K. A., O’Leary, K. D., & Heyman, R. E. (2001). Categorizing partner-violent men within
the reactive-proactive typology model. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 69,
567-572. doi:10.1037/0022-006X.69.3.567
Coker, A. L., Smith, P. H., McKeown, R. E., & King, M. J. (2000). Frequency and correlates of
intimate partner violence by type: Physical, sexual, and psychological battering. American
Journal of Public Health, 90, 553-559.
Currie, C. L. (2006). Animal cruelty by children exposed to domestic violence. Child Abuse &
Neglect, 30, 425-435. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2005.10.014
DeGue, S. (2011). A triad of family violence: Examining overlap in the abuse of children, part-
ners, and pets. In C. Blazina, G. Boyraz, & D. S. Shen-Miller (Eds.), The psychology of the
human-animal bond (pp. 245-262). New York: Springer.
Edleson, J. L., Shin, N., & Johnson Armendariz, K. K. (2008). Measuring children’s exposure
to domestic violence: The development and testing of the Child Exposure to Domestic
Violence (CEDV) Scale. Children and Youth Services Review, 30, 502-521. doi:10.1016/j.
childyouth.2007.11.006
Faver, C. A., & Cavazos, A. M. (2007). Animal abuse and domestic violence: A view from the
border. Journal of Emotional Abuse, 7, 59-81. doi:10.1300/J135v07n03-04
22 Violence Against Women
Faver, C. A., & Strand, E. B. (2003). To leave or to stay? Battered women’s concern for vulnerable
pets. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 18, 1367-1377. doi:10.1177/0886260503258028
Faver, C. A., & Strand, E. B. (2007). Fear, guilt, and grief: Harm to pets and the emotional abuse
of women. Journal of Emotional Abuse, 7, 51-70. doi:10.1300/J135v07n01_04
Finkel, E. J., DeWall, C. N., Slotter, E. B., Oaten, M., & Foshee, V. A. (2009). Self-regulatory
failure and intimate partner violence perpetration. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 97, 483-499. doi:10.1037/a0015433
Finkelhor, D., Shattuck, A., Turner, H., & Hamby, S. (2013). Improving the adverse child-
hood experiences study scale. JAMA Pediatrics, 167, 70-75. doi:10.1001/jamapediat-
rics.2013.420
Finkelhor, D., Turner, H. A., Shattuck, A., & Hamby, S. L. (2015). Prevalence of childhood
exposure to violence, crime, and abuse: Results from the national survey of children’s expo-
sure to violence. JAMA Pediatrics, 169, 746-754. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.0676
Flynn, C. P. (2000a). Why family professionals can no longer ignore violence toward animals.
Family Relations, 49, 87-95. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3729.2000.00087.x
Flynn, C. P. (2000b). Woman’s best friend: Pet abuse and the role of companion animals in the lives
of battered women. Violence Against Women, 6, 162-177. doi:10.1177/10778010022181778
Gallagher, B., Allen, M., & Jones, B. (2008). Animal abuse and intimate partner violence:
Researching the link and its significance in Ireland—A veterinary perspective. Irish
Veterinary Journal, 61, 658-667. doi:10.1186/2046-0481-61-10-658
Gerard, J. M., Krishnakumar, A., & Buehler, C. (2006). Marital conflict, parent–child rela-
tions, and youth maladjustment a longitudinal investigation of spillover effects. Journal of
Family Issues, 27, 951-975. doi:10.1177/0192513X05286020
Giorgi, A. (2009). The descriptive phenomenological method in psychology. Pittsburgh, PA:
Duquesne University Press.
Groves, B. M. (1999). Mental health services for children who witness domestic violence. The
Future of Children, 9, 122-132. doi:10.2307/1602786
Guruge, S. (2012). Intimate partner violence: A global health perspective. Canadian Journal of
Nursing Research, 44, 36-54.
Hardesty, J. L., Khaw, L., Ridgway, M. D., Weber, C., & Miles, T. (2013). Coercive control and
abused women’s decisions about their pets when seeking shelter. Journal of Interpersonal
Violence, 28, 2617-2639. doi:10.1177/0886260513487994
Hayes, A. F., & Krippendorff, K. (2007). Answering the call for a standard reliability measure
for coding data. Communication Methods and Measures, 1, 77-89.
Henry, J., Pingault, J. B., Boivin, M., Rijsdijk, F., & Viding, E. (2016). Genetic and environ-
mental aetiology of the dimensions of Callous-Unemotional traits. Psychological Medicine,
46, 405-414. doi:10.1017/S0033291715001919
Holt, S., Buckley, H., & Whelan, S. (2008). The impact of exposure to domestic violence on
children and young people: A review of the literature. Child Abuse & Neglect, 32, 797-810.
doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2008.02.004
Jarvis, K. L., Gordon, E. E., & Novaco, R. W. (2005). Psychological distress of children and
mothers in domestic violence emergency shelters. Journal of Family Violence, 20, 389-402.
doi:10.1007/s10896-005-7800-1
Kelly, J. B., & Johnson, M. P. (2008). Differentiation among types of intimate partner violence:
Research update and implications for interventions. Family Court Review, 46, 476-499.
doi:10.1111/j.1744-1617.2008.00215.x
King, N. (1998). Template analysis. In C. M. Cassell & G. Symon (Eds.), Qualitative methods
in organizational research: A practical guide (pp. 118-134). London, England: Sage.
Collins et al. 23
King, N. (2012). Doing template analysis. In G. Symon & C. Cassell (Eds.), Qualitative orga-
nizational research (pp. 426-450). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Krienert, J. L., Walsh, J. A., Matthews, K., & McConkey, K. (2012). Examining the nexus
between domestic violence and animal abuse in a national sample of service providers.
Violence and Victims, 27, 280-295. doi:10.1891/0886-6708.27.2.280
Langhinrichsen-Rohling, J. (2010). Controversies involving gender and intimate partner vio-
lence in the United States. Sex Roles, 62, 179-193. doi:10.1007/s11199-009-9628-2
Lindhorst, T., & Tajima, E. (2008). Reconceptualizing and operationalizing context in survey
research on intimate partner violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 23, 362-388.
doi:10.1177/0886260507312293
Lu, C. J., & Shulman, S. W. (2008). Rigor and flexibility in computer-based qualitative research:
Introducing the Coding Analysis Toolkit. International Journal of Multiple Research
Approaches, 2, 105-117. doi:10.5172/mra.455.2.1.105
Mayoh, J., & Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (2015). Toward a conceptualization of mixed meth-
ods phenomenological research. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 9, 91-107.
doi:10.1177/1558689813505358
McDonald, S. E., Collins, E. A., Nicotera, N., Hageman, T. O., Ascione, F. R., Williams, J. H.,
& Graham-Bermann, S. A. (2015). Children’s experiences of companion animal maltreat-
ment in households characterized by intimate partner violence. Child Abuse & Neglect, 50,
116-127. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2015.10.005
McDonald, S. E., Graham-Bermann, S. A., Maternick, A., Ascione, F., & Williams, J. H.
(2016). Patterns of adjustment among children exposed to intimate partner violence: A per-
son-centered approach. Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma, 9, 137-152. doi:10.1007/
s40653-016-0079-y
Onyskiw, J. E. (2007). The link between family violence and cruelty to family pets. Journal of
Emotional Abuse, 7, 7-30. doi:10.1300/J135v07n03-02
Padgett, D. (2008). Qualitative methods in social work research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA:
Sage.
Pence, E., & Paymar, M. (1986). Power and control: Tactics of men who batter. Duluth:
Minnesota Program Development.
Petersen, M., & Farrington, D. P. (2007). Cruelty to animals and violence to people. Victims and
Offenders, 2, 21-43. doi:10.1080/15564880600934187
Phillips, A. (2015). Sheltering Animals and Families Together (SAF-T) program start-up man-
ual. Retrieved from http://alliephillips.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/SAF-T-Start-Up-
Manual-2015.pdf
Renner, L. M., & Slack, K. S. (2006). Intimate partner violence and child maltreatment:
Understanding intra- and intergenerational connections. Child Abuse & Neglect, 30, 599-
617. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2005.12.005
Roguski, M. (2012). Pets as pawns: The co-existence of animal cruelty and family violence.
Auckland: Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Retrieved
from http://nationallinkcoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/DV-PetsAsPawnsNZ.pdf
Scott-Storey, K. (2011). Cumulative abuse: Do things add up? An evaluation of the concep-
tualization, operationalization, and methodological approaches in the study of the phe-
nomenon of cumulative abuse. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 12, 135-150. doi:10.1177/
1524838011404253
Simmons, C. A., & Lehmann, P. L. (2007). Exploring the link between pet abuse and control-
ling behaviors in violent relationships. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 22, 1211-1222.
doi:10.1177/0886260507303734
24 Violence Against Women
Stark, E. (2007). Coercive control: How men entrap women in personal life. Oxford, UK:
Oxford University Press.
Tallichet, S. E., & Hensley, C. (2004). Exploring the link between recurrent acts of childhood
and adolescent animal cruelty and subsequent violent crime. Criminal Justice Review, 29,
304-316.
Tiplady, C. M., Walsh, D. B., & Phillips, J. C. (2015). The ongoing impact of domestic violence
on animal welfare. Animal Studies Journal, 4, 116-139.
Volant, A. M., Johnson, J. A., Gullone, E., & Coleman, G. J. (2008). The relationship between
domestic violence and animal abuse: An Australian study. Journal of Interpersonal
Violence, 23, 1277-1295. doi:10.1177/0886260508314309
Walton-Moss, B., Manganello, J., Frye, V., & Campbell, J. (2005). Risk factors for intimate
partner violence and associated injury among urban women. Journal of Community Health,
30, 377-389. doi:10.1007/s10900-005-5518-x
Author Biographies
Elizabeth A. Collins, MSW, completed this research while working as the Advocacy Director
at the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV). She engaged in efforts to
support community-based advocacy programs and to improve statewide responses for people
who have experienced domestic violence. Before joining CCADV in 2008, she had the privi-
lege of working directly with survivors of domestic abuse in shelter and community settings.
She has particular interest in empowerment-based advocacy, trauma-informed services, bat-
terers as parents, and addressing the co-occurrence of domestic violence and child
maltreatment.
Anna M. Cody is a social work doctoral student at Virginia Commonwealth University
(VCU). As a graduate research assistant, she works on research regarding the impacts of inti-
mate partner violence and animal maltreatment on children. Her research interests include
working with children and youth to expand and improve family violence prevention programs
as well as exploring the impacts of child welfare policy changes on children, families, and
social workers.
Shelby Elaine McDonald, PhD, is assistant professor in the School of Social Work at VCU.
She received her PhD in social work from the University of Denver. Her research and publica-
tions focus on ethnocultural variations in women and children’s exposure and response to inti-
mate partner violence and human–animal interactions in the context of welfare, health, and
socioecological justice. She has a specific interest in the intersection of children’s exposure to
intimate partner violence and concomitant animal cruelty. Her current research uses advanced
person-centered statistical techniques to explore heterogeneity of adjustment among children
who experience polyvictimization.
Nicole Nicotera, PhD, is associate professor of social work at the University of Denver,
Graduate School of Social Work. She applies her expertise in qualitative and mixed methodolo-
gies to research topics that include promotion of health and well-being across the life span; the
role of risk, protection, and resilience in health; civic engagement and mindfulness practices as
pathways to well-being; measuring civic development and engagement; interventions to
enhance civic leadership and positive youth development; and issues of unearned privilege and
oppression in social work practice, education, and research.
Collins et al. 25
Frank R. Ascione, PhD, is an internationally renowned researcher and author who has con-
ducted research related to humane education, children’s attitudes toward animals, and child and
adolescent animal abuse. His research on animal abuse examines the common roots of violence
toward people and animals and is directed at identifying an early indicator of at-risk status in
children. He served as the inaugural American Humane Endowed Chair and executive director
of the Institute for Human-Animal Connection at the University of Denver Graduate School of
Social Work (GSSW) from September 2009 until June 2012. He is a scholar-in-residence at the
GSSW.
James Herbert Williams, PhD, is dean and Milton Morris Endowed Chair at the Graduate
School of Social Work at the University of Denver. He holds his MSW from Smith College,
MPA from the University of Colorado, and PhD in social welfare from the University of
Washington. His research and publications focus on human security and economic sustainabil-
ity, health promotion and disease prevention, health equity, sustainable development, mental
health services for African American children in urban schools, violence prevention, and com-
munity strategies for positive youth development.
... 99). Since then, the co-existence of domestic violence directed at humans and other animals in the home is well documented (e.g., Allen et al., 2006;Ascione et al., 2007;Barrett et al., 2020;Collins et al., 2018;Faver & Strand, 2003a;Flynn, 2000aFlynn, , 2000bHardesty et al., 2013;Newberry, 2017;Simmons & Lehmann, 2007;Strand & Faver, 2005;Volant et al., 2008). Studies also reported that women in abusive situations commonly have pets. ...
... Power and control are at the core of analyses of VAW. As such, studies found that abuse of companion animals is a coercive tactic that perpetrators used to control their partners Allen et al., 2006;Barrett et al., 2020;Collins et al., 2018;Faver & Strand, 2003b, 2007Flynn, 2000aFlynn, , 2000cSimmons & Lehmann, 2007). Ecofeminist and Critical Animal Studies scholar Carol theorized this, which later was supported by social work scholars, Faver and Strand (2007). ...
Article
Full-text available
Women often delay moving to VAW shelters if their companion animals’ safety is not ensured. Yet, few shelters accommodate them together. The purpose of this study is to explore what may help to promote services for women with companion animals facing violence, through learning from professionals who already provide support. Our email survey with VAW shelters in Ontario, Canada identified services and potential interviewees. Nine semi-structured telephone interviews with professionals were conducted to explore their experiences and views on human–animal relationships. All agencies that provided onsite programs, plus one about to start, participated. We utilized Critical Animal Studies as a theory to understand human–animal relationships through concepts such as intersectionality, anthropocentrism, speciesism, and feminist ethics of responsibility. The study found: (1) seven approaches shelters used to help women with companion animals; (2) programs that accept companion animals helped women move to shelters quickly but also affirmed women’s mutually respectful relationships with companion animals; (3) shelters also benefited, including expanding support from local communities and opportunities to educate them. The study suggests that by shifting ontological and theoretical approaches and including a critical examination of human–animal relationships at interpersonal and social structural levels, professional education promotes mobilizing resources for women with companion animals.
... Sabemos que trabajar traumas es un asunto complicado y que requiere un enfoque comprensivo de muchas áreas. Innegablemente, uno de los factores protectores para la recuperación de algunas personas participantes de nuestros espacios profesionales son las mascotas (Collins et al., 2018) y lograr que las mismas permanezcan con ellas en sus momentos más vulnerables es de suma importancia. Tenemos que comenzar a fomentar el reconocimiento de la relación humano-mascota como una vital de la que la población en general se beneficia y que maximiza, a su vez, la capacidad de recuperación para las personas con más vulnerabilidad y necesidad. ...
... Barrett et al. (2018Barrett et al. ( , 2020 2 included samples from the same dataset. The other nine studies' samples all were derived from the same study (Collins et al. 2018 critical to improve the generalizability of the results regarding "the link" to better understand for whom and under what circumstances concomitant family violence and animal cruelty is a risk. With regard to generalizability, future researchers should also continue to build evidence across all forms of family violence. ...
Article
Full-text available
There is some evidence that family violence (intimate partner violence, child maltreatment, elder abuse) co-occurs with animal cruelty (i.e., threats to and/or actual harm of an animal), which is often referred to as “the link.” The aim of this scoping review was to systematically search the literature to determine the extent of empirical evidence that supports the co-occurrence of family violence and animal cruelty and that provides prevalence rates of the co-occurrence. We searched eight electronic databases (e.g., Academic Search Complete, PsycArticles, PubMed) for peer-reviewed articles published until September 2021. Articles were eligible for inclusion if they were written in English and included the empirical study of at least one form of family violence and animal cruelty. We identified 61 articles for inclusion. The majority of articles (n=48) focused on co-occurring IPV and animal cruelty and 20 articles examined child maltreatment and animal cruelty. No articles examining elder abuse and animal cruelty were found. Prevalence rates of “the link” ranged from <1% to >80%. Findings regarding the association between family violence and animal cruelty varied. Some studies found that family violence was significantly associated with animal cruelty (or vice versa), but there was also evidence that the association was not statistically significant. Associations between family violence and animal cruelty were not significant in most studies that adjusted for sociodemographic factors. This suggests that sociodemographic factors (e.g., exposure to multiple forms of violence, income) may explain the co-occurrence of family violence and animal cruelty. Based on the results of our scoping review, we recommend that caution should be taken regarding assertions of “the link” without further research to better understand the co-occurrence of family violence and animal cruelty and the factors and mechanisms that influence their co-occurrence.
... DAH staff reported that victims refused or were reluctant to leave because they believed that their animal would be harmed as a consequence. Animals have therefore been identified as a significant barrier for fleeing (Collins et al., 2018;Volant et al., 2008) with as many as 88% of victims delaying shelter because of their animal (Strand & Faver, 2006). Previous studies have indicated that it is not unanticipated that victims of abuse will consider the safety and wellbeing of their companion animals above their own and will stay with their abuser to protect their animals (Allen et al., 2006;Faver & Strand, 2003;Krienert et al., 2012). ...
Article
Full-text available
Companion animals can both protect against, and increase risk for, coercive control and abuse, yet have not been considered in existing UK COVID-19 reports of domestic abuse (DA). This study aimed to explore the nature and frequency of animal-related calls received by UK domestic abuse helpline (DAH) staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, examine any lockdown-related changes, identify potential commonalities across helpline organisations, and explore perspectives about ongoing animal-related issues in the context of DA. Semi-structured virtual interviews were conducted with 11 DAH staff workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Data were subjected to thematic analysis. The analysis revealed four overarching themes. Theme (1) lockdown-related changes in the frequency and nature of animal-related calls received. Theme (2) animals as tools for abuse during lockdown, with subthemes (a) manipulating the family-animal bond, and (b) fears over animal safety. Theme (3) animals as barriers to refuge during lockdown, with subthemes, (a) lack of animal-friendly accommodation, (b) lack of social support systems, and (c) animals as coping mechanisms. Theme (4) helpline staffs’ awareness of and links to animal-friendly accommodation and fostering services. The findings can inform decision making regarding appropriate long-term support needs for multi-species families with complex needs, both during and post-pandemic.
... Lockwood found that 92% of respondents to a national survey of adult protective service workers had experienced animal neglect cooccurring with a client's inability to care for themselves (42). Household dysfunction (e.g., domestic violence, substance use) may also contribute to animal neglect (43)(44)(45). Indeed, there is some evidence that failure to groom pets' matted hair, seek veterinary care, and other forms of animal neglect are prevalent among households experiencing family violence (45,46). ...
Article
Full-text available
Grooming is an essential health maintenance activity that is fundamental to the welfare of many companion animals. Despite the potentially serious consequences of inadequate grooming for pets and their caregivers, few studies have examined the role of access to pet grooming services and supplies in promoting and maintaining companion animal health and welfare. The goal of this paper was two-fold: 1) To provide preliminary findings demonstrating the scope of grooming and matting concerns among animals served by a large, non-profit animal welfare organization and 2) to provide a call for research to guide effective prevention of and responses to grooming-related omissions of care. We retrospectively extracted data from five American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) programs serving the New York City area: ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH), Community Medicine (CM), One ASPCA Fund, ASPCA-NYPD (New York City Police Department) Partnership, and the Community Engagement (CE) Program. The prevalence of grooming–related concerns was relatively consistent across all three veterinary service programs (AAH: 6%; CM: 4%; One ASPCA Fund: 6%). Thirteen percent of the ASPCA-NYPD Partnership’s cruelty cases involved general hair matting concerns and/or strangulating hair mat wounds (93% were long-haired dog breed types). Five percent of CE cases received grooming-related supplies to support pet caregivers’ in-home grooming capabilities. Our findings underscore the need to understand the scope of grooming-related concerns among animals served by veterinarians and other community programs to improve animals’ access to health-related services.
Chapter
Considerable growth has occurred in research on various aspects of human-animal interaction in recent years. This chapter provides an integrated overview of the current state of empirical research in each of the four core domains of veterinary social work: animal-assisted interventions, animal-related grief and bereavement, compassion fatigue and management, and links between animal and human maltreatment. We discuss strengths and limitations of available knowledge alongside opportunities for future research and, where applicable, data-driven implications for programs and policy.KeywordsAnimal crueltyAnimal-related grief and bereavementAutismCompassion fatigueFamily violenceOlder adultsResilienceTrauma
Chapter
The introduction to the brief highlights the increasing importance and timeliness of understanding animal maltreatment and the human-animal connection, including core definitions and concepts, as well as themes to be explored throughout the brief.KeywordsAnimal maltreatmentAnimal abuseAnimal crueltyAnimal neglectCompanion animalsForensic Animal Maltreatment Evaluations (FAME)Human-animal connectionHuman and nonhuman animalsIntimate partner violence (IPV)University of DenverDenver Forensic Institute for Research, Service, and Training (Denver FIRST)Graduate School of Professional Psychology (GSPP)Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW)Institute for Human-Animal Connection (IHAC)Master’s in Forensic Psychology (MAFP) ProgramDoctorate in Clinical Psychology (PsyD) ProgramProfessional Psychology Clinic (PPC)
Chapter
Safety net programs are programs designed to facilitate pet retention, support the human‐animal bond, and avoid shelter relinquishment. Strategies to accomplish these goals vary based on program type and may include provision of basic pet needs such as food and shelter, access to veterinary care, or behavioral support. Even when not specifically behavior focused, safety net programs support the behavioral health of pets at risk of relinquishment by avoiding the stress of sheltering and rehoming. Successful programs should be based on thoughtful analysis of community needs as well as consideration of program goals, desired impact, and available resources. Strategic program selection, planning, and management maximize program impact and allow for thoughtful scaling as community needs or organizational resources evolve. With these considerations in mind, successful safety net programs foster accessible and equitable support for pet owners and benefit animals, pet owners, organizations, and communities.
Article
Full-text available
O presente artigo objetiva compreender como a intervenção/prevenção de comportamentos violentos contra animais pode refletir na prevenção de episódios de violência doméstica e contra as pessoas no geral, tendo em vista o desenvolvimento de competências como empatia, respeito e atitudes pró sociais. Para tanto, discute o crescente aumento de crimes violentos no Brasil e a necessidade de buscar formas para mitigar essa violência, com base na Teoria de Link e suas contribuições que esta Teoria pode trazer para a prevenção e combate a crimes violentos contra seres humanos e animais. Assim, o problema norteador desta pesquisa é: Como a Teoria de Link explica a relação entre a violência contra animais e a violência contra as pessoas? Como metodologia é empregada a pesquisa teórico-dogmática, do método dedutivo com base em uma revisão de literatura em doutrinas, legislações pertinentes e jurisprudência visando encontrar um proposito de mitigar ou minorar o problema dos maus tratos contra animais e seres humanos. Ao final do estudo conclui-se que conhecer os métodos, motivos e estado de espírito das pessoas que cometem atos de crueldade contra os animais, pode ajudar a fornecer aos tribunais e aos profissionais de saúde mental ferramentas adicionais para a avaliação da importância desses crimes e dos riscos potenciais que os infratores podem representar para outros animais e para a sociedade como um todo.
Article
This study assesses the relationship between threatened/enacted violence against companion animals, intimate partner violence (IPV), fear of lethal violence, and help-seeking in a community sample of IPV survivors in Canada (n = 630). After controlling for socio-demographic covariates, IPV survivors who report animal maltreatment by their partner were significantly more likely to fear for their lives and to seek help from multiple sources of support than survivors who did not report animal maltreatment, with the relationship between animal abuse and help-seeking mediated by survivors’ fear of lethal IPV. Implications for the provision of effective services and supports to this high-risk population of IPV survivors are discussed.
Article
Full-text available
This study examined profiles of adjustment in an ethnically diverse sample of 291 school-age children recruited from community-based domestic violence services. Using latent profile analysis (LPA), six domains of adjustment were examined: social problems, attention problems, internalizing behavior, externalizing behavior, empathy, and callous/unemotional traits. Results of the LPA provided support for three distinct profiles of socioemotional functioning among children in the sample: Resilient (66 %; n = 191), Struggling (28 %; n = 83), and Severe Maladjustment (6 %; n = 17). Variables that distinguished between the profiles included: children’s race/ethnicity, exposure to concomitant animal cruelty, relationship to the abusive partner, and the duration of their maternal caregiver’s experience of IPV. Study results lend support to previous research suggesting differential patterns of socioemotional adjustment among children exposed to IPV.
Article
Full-text available
Cruelty toward companion animals is a well-documented, coercive tactic used by abusive partners to intimidate and control their intimate partners. Experiences of co-occurring violence are common for children living in families with intimate partner violence (IPV) and surveys show that more than half are also exposed to abuse of their pets. Given children's relationships with their pets, witnessing such abuse may be traumatic for them. Yet little is known about the prevalence and significance of this issue for children. The present study examines the experiences of children in families with co-occurring pet abuse and IPV. Using qualitative methods, 58 children ages 7-12 who were exposed to IPV were asked to describe their experiences of threats to and harm of their companion animals. Following the interviews, template analysis was employed to systematically develop codes and themes. Coding reliability was assessed using Randolph's free-marginal multirater kappa (kfree=.90). Five themes emerged from the qualitative data, the most common being children's exposure to pet abuse as a power and control tactic against their mother in the context of IPV. Other themes were animal maltreatment to discipline or punish the pet, animal cruelty by a sibling, children intervening to prevent pet abuse, and children intervening to protect the pet during a violent episode. Results indicate that children's experiences of pet abuse are multifaceted, potentially traumatic, and may involve multiple family members with diverse motives.
Article
Full-text available
Background. A Callous-Unemotional trait specifier (termed ‘Limited Prosocial Emotions’) was added to the diagnosis of conduct disorder in the DSM-5. The Inventory of Callous-Unemotional Traits (ICU) is a comprehensive measure of these traits assessing three distinct, yet correlated dimensions – Callousness, Uncaring, and Unemotional – all thought to reflect the general Callous-Unemotional construct. The present study was the first to examine the degree to which the aetiology of these dimensions is shared vs. independent. Methods. Parent-reported ICU data from 5092 16-year-old twin pairs from the Twins Early Development Study were subjected to confirmatory factor analysis. Multivariate genetic modelling was applied to the best-fitting structure. Results. A general-specific structure, retaining a general factor and two uncorrelated specific factors (Callousness-Uncaring, Unemotional), provided the best fit to the data. The general factor was substantially heritable (h2 = .58; 95% CI [.51–.65]). Unusually, shared environmental influences were also important in accounting for this general factor (c2 = .26; 95% CI [.22–.31]), in addition to non-shared environmental influences. The Unemotional dimension appeared phenotypically and genetically distinct as shown by the substantial loadings of unemotional items on a separate dimension and a low genetic correlation between Unemotional and Callousness-Uncaring Conclusions. A general factor, indicative of a shared phenotypic structure across the dimensions of the ICU was under substantial common genetic and more modest shared environment influences. Our findings also suggest that the relevance of the Unemotional dimension as part of a comprehensive assessment of CU traits should be investigated further.
Article
This chapter reviews the existing clinical and empirical literature on the use of children by abusive intimate partners to control, degrade, threaten, and undermine women who are pregnant and/or who already have children; these tactics are considered a form of psychological violence that has detrimental effects on women and their children. This chapter also presents original results from an ongoing, longitudinal study involving a diverse sample of 120 high-risk women who have been interviewed at multiple time points from pregnancy to 3 years after birth. Data on this form of psychological violence (i.e., using children to victimize mothers) have been collected at multiple time points, along with several indicators of maternal well-being. Results revealed that this form of psychological violence was relatively common during pregnancy (28%) and during the first year after birth (53%) in this community sample. Furthermore, this form of psychological violence was significantly related to women's personal well-being (e.g., mental health) and their parental well-being (e.g., maternal self-esteem, parenting stress) in expected ways during pregnancy and during the first year after birth. Findings indicate that the use of children against their mothers by abusive partners is a form of psychological violence that is both common and detrimental to women experiencing intimate partner violence. It is recommended that future research assess for this form of psychological violence, in addition to the more typical assessments of violence, in order to more fully understand the effects of partner violence on mothers. Further, it is recommended that clinical interventions screen for this type of psychological violence in order to better aid women and children and prevent any negative outcomes resulting from such violence.
Article
It is important to estimate the burden of and trends for violence, crime, and abuse in the lives of children. To provide health care professionals, policy makers, and parents with current estimates of exposure to violence, crime, and abuse across childhood and at different developmental stages. The National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV) includes a representative sample of US telephone numbers from August 28, 2013, to April 30, 2014. Via telephone interviews, information was obtained on 4000 children 0 to 17 years old, with information about exposure to violence, crime, and abuse provided by youth 10 to 17 years old and by caregivers for children 0 to 9 years old. Exposure to violence, crime, and abuse using the Juvenile Victimization Questionnaire. In total, 37.3% of youth experienced a physical assault in the study year, and 9.3% of youth experienced an assault-related injury. Two percent of girls experienced sexual assault or sexual abuse in the study year, while the rate was 4.6% for girls 14 to 17 years old. Overall, 15.2% of children and youth experienced maltreatment by a caregiver, including 5.0% who experienced physical abuse. In total, 5.8% witnessed an assault between parents. Only 2 significant rate changes could be detected compared with the last survey in 2011, namely, declines in past-year exposure to dating violence and lifetime exposure to household theft. Children and youth are exposed to violence, abuse, and crime in varied and extensive ways, which justifies continued monitoring and prevention efforts.
Article
Previous research indicates that batterers often threaten or harm pets in order to intimidate and control their female partners. Most of this research, however, has been limited to samples comprised primarily of non-Hispanic women. To address this gap, this paper reports findings from a survey of 151 pet-owning women (74% Hispanic) who sought help from two South Texas domestic violence programs near the U.S.-Mexico border. Thirty-six percent of the women reported that their batterers had threatened, harmed, or killed their pets; 35% reported that they worried about the safety of their pets while they were in the abusive relationship; and 20.5% reported that concern for the safety of their pets affected their decision about seeking shelter. The findings indicate that pet abuse is a component of intimate partner violence (IPV) in Hispanic as well as non-Hispanic families.