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    The Correlation between Animal Abuse and Domestic Abuse

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    The Correlation between Animal Abuse and Domestic Abuse

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    There have been many studies which have shown that there is a very definite link between animal abuse and domestic abuse.

    So what do we know about this? People are often surprised that there is a link. But should we be surprised? People that are able to be abusive to other people or who are able to manipulate children to gain or maintain control over their partners, surely won’t feel bad or guilty about using animals in the same way?! It is one of the early warning signs that someone may be of an abusive nature. This is why it is one of the questions on the ‘DASH’ (Domestic Abuse, Stalking & Harassment Risk Assessment), which is routinely used by the Police and IDVA Services across the UK to determine a victim/survivor’s current risk of further harm.

    In research undertaken in 2021 by Refuge4Pets who work in Partnership with Dogs Trust, it was found that almost 9 in 10 households who experienced domestic abuse have said their animals were also abused by the perpetrator. In 94%, where an animal was given as a ‘gift’ the animals were then abused which evidences the fact that animals are used by the perpetrator as a tool to control and coerce the victim/survivor.

    Sadly, I witnessed this in my abusive relationship. Of all the abuse perpetrated against me, the abuse that my little dog experienced still hurts me to the core. Whenever my husband went out, the dog would watch him go and once his car was out of sight, the dog would turn on me. We had to let the dog go, through no fault of its own. We had a young baby and it was just too dangerous. Now, of course, it all makes perfect sense. The dog was confused and frustrated and taking this frustration out on me because it was too afraid of my husband.

    Unfortunately, we know from research that perpetrators of domestic abuse use animals in many ways to be able to instill fear into their victim. To control, coerce and physically harm and threaten them by using the animal. Perpetrators use the strong bonds people have with their pets to get what they want and to control their partner and/or the children. This has a devastating impact on the victim/survivors and on children. I have heard many victims and survivors say that there were constant threats to harm or kill their pet, that they were not allowed to take the pet to the vets when ill, take them for walks and in the most traumatic of cases, the pets themselves have been beaten or killed as a ‘punishment’ to the victim/survivor.

    Dogs Trust launched ‘The Freedom Project’ in 2004. This project offers support for dog owners who needed to escape domestic abuse. The project works in partnership with Cats Protection, Paw’s Protect, Endeavour and Refuge4Pets and provide foster homes for pets so that their owners can leave their abusive relationships knowing that their beloved pets are safe from further abuse. I have referred people to these organisations myself and in my opinion, these services are vital. The animals are fostered into caring homes with people (many of these are people that have themselves experienced domestic abuse in the past). The project is free and pays for the animals food and veterinary care for an average of 6-9 months, when hopefully their owners will have resettled safely. Of late the organisations have reported a huge spike in referrals.

    For more information on this project, if you need support yourself or you feel you may be able to give a good, safe foster home to an animal whose owner is escaping domestic abuse please click on the link below.

    Overview – Dogs Trust Freedom Project

    Sharon Bryan
    Head Of Partnerships & Development Of Domestic Abuse Services

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    By Fiona Bawden, Times Online (8th May 2007)

    “Steve Connor, a student at City Law School, is a man on a mission. Six years ago he was a fairly directionless 27-year-old. Today, as well as taking the Bar Vocational Course, he is chairman of the National Centre for Domestic Violence, a ground-breaking organisation that he dragged into existence after a friend could not get legal help to protect her from an abusive partner.

    Connor’s route to the Bar has been circuitous. In 2001 he returned from a year in Australia (he says that he would not dignify describing it as a gap year), and took a job as a process server in South London. The job (“I just saw it advertised in the paper”) was not quite as dull as it sounds. On one occasion he was threatened with a machete, on another, he was nearly stabbed by a man he had arranged to meet on Clapham Common to serve with a non-molestation order: “He’d seemed really friendly on the phone…”

    The turning point in his life came when a friend, who was being abused by her partner, turned to him for support. Connor went with her to the police. She did not want to press criminal charges so the police suggested that she visit a solicitor to take out a civil injunction. “We must have seen 12 solicitors in a morning. We just went from one to the next to the next to the next. Everyone was very eager to help until we sat down to fill in the forms for the legal aid means test,” he says. The woman, who had a small child, did not qualify for public funding. But, Connor says, her financial situation as it appeared on paper did not bear any relation to her financial situation in reality. “She had a part-time job and she and her partner owned their home. Yet she didn’t have any money. Her boyfriend was very controlling and controlled all the money; he kept the chequebooks and didn’t let her have access to the bank account.”

    The injustice of the situation got under Connor’s skin. “I just couldn’t believe that there was no help available to people who did not qualify for public funds but could not afford to pay.

    I just kept feeling that this must be able to be sorted if only someone would address it.”That “someone” turned out to be him.

    In 2002, thanks entirely to Connor’s doggedness, the London Centre for Domestic Violence was formed. It started out with him and a friend, but is now a national organisation, covering 27 counties, and has helped approximately 10,000 victims last year to take out injunctions against their partners.

    NCDV now has nine full-time staff, 12 permanent volunteers and has trained over 5000 law and other students as McKenzie Friends to accompany unrepresented victims into court. We have also trained over 8000 police officers in civil remedies available regarding domestic violence. The National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) has branches in London, Guildford and Manchester and is on track to have branches in 16 areas within the next two years.

    NCDV specialises exclusively in domestic violence work and could be characterised as a cross between McDonald’s and Claims Direct. The high degree of specialisation means that its processes are streamlined: clients can be seen quickly and the work is done speedily and cheaply. “Sometimes, we will have one of our trained McKenzie Friends at a court doing 10 applications in one day,” Connor says.

    Clients are not charged for the service. NCDV staff take an initial statement: clients who qualify for legal aid are referred to a local firm; those that don’t get free help from the centre itself. It runs on a shoestring, heavily reliant on volunteers and capping staff salaries at £18,000 a year.

    Steve expects to qualify as a barrister this summer and hopes that having a formal legal qualification will give the centre added clout. “We are already acknowledged as experts and consulted at a high level, so I thought it would be helpful if I could back that up by being able to say I’m a barrister,” he says. He is just about to complete a one-year full-time BVC course at the City Law School (formerly the Inns of Court Law School) and, all being well, should be called to the Bar in July. Although Connor sees his long-term future as a barrister, he says that he has no immediate plans to practise. “I want to get NCDV running on a fully national level. Then I may take a step back and have a career at the Bar.”