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The Invisible Victims of Family Violence That Many Survivors Will Never Forget...

Updated on September 4, 2011

Pets are the invisible victims of Family Violence. I have heard of and met many women who have suffered the loss of a pet because of family violence. Threatening to harm our pets is also one way abusers try to control and intimidate their victims.

Fear that their pets would be harmed by their abusers is also a something that prevents some women from seeking safety in domestic violence shelters - they cannot take their pets with them, and they just cannot leave them behind either, especially if threats have been made.

Pet Cats can suffer from family violence too!
Pet Cats can suffer from family violence too!

I know that some refuges have set up networks of pet-foster families that will take people's pets into their homes temporarily until the woman and her children have managed to set up another home of their own.

Unfortunately though, such networks are not common. Most often the only option provided to victims who have pets is temporary shelter at the RSPCA, however the conditions are the same as for any other "unwanted" pet - a week or two during which they are available to others seeking a pet, or they are put to sleep.

This is tragic, because the pets needing shelter in such circumstances are almost NEVER unwanted. It is a decision many women are forced to make - "my kids or our pet?" Obviously there is no choice if a woman's life and those of her children are in danger, but it must be tragic for such families, adding tremendously to their burden of grief.

Some Help from someone who understands:

Zoe, from the NY tri state area, has started something amazing for pet owners who need to escape family violence. She has been fostering pets since 2002. She was motivated to do so because she understands how important pets are, and knows first hand the pain of losing a pet to family violence.

Zoe says: "I want to take away all reasons that any survivor has to stay. I have been there and understand it all to well which is why I am starting "Paw Prints" as welll as "Seasons' and "Art for Hope". Survivors are no longer alone, in their worries about their pet's. They have someone in their corner who truly understands and cares."

If you are in the NY Tri State area, you can find out more about the services Zoe offers, and find her contact details by visiting her website:

Linda's Law (

Zoe also says: "I have saint bernards, so there is no issue with big dogs. I am on 23 acres so I can take horses, although there is more issues to shipping them it takes more planning. We love cats too. We have the space and we have the hearts.
We are in the process of building an out building for larger pets, like horses, but we are officially approved to take in pets / animals.
If the surivivors are in the NY tri state area, I can also personally come pick them up so that the survivors have a face to put with who their babies are with.
As of right now I have over 80 pounds of dog food, 10 pounds of cat food, and 5 kennels to transport them - and no pet ( except horses) will ever be kept outside or in kennels."

I thank heaven for Angels like Zoe, and the contribution they make to our lives, and to this world!

Dogs can be very protective of their owners...
Dogs can be very protective of their owners...
Our Irish mate, Paddy
Our Irish mate, Paddy

Our Loyal Protector

Some dogs are truly amazing! I can relate to the articles I've linked to above. We have a viciously protective yet extremely tolerant, overwhelmingly affectionate giant of a dog called Paddy. He's an Irish Wolfhound, and one heck of a character. We got him shortly after I separated from my kid's dad many years ago. He is a much loved part of the family, and he ADORES the kids.

When the kid's dad first moved back in with us a few years back ...(yes, I gave him another chance - 5 years later- I know, silly me...), the dog took a real shining to him. Within a year however, Paddy would keep his distance whenever the kids' dad was out the back.

Then one day the kids' dad got violent with them. After that, whenever the kids were playing outside, Paddy dog used to hover near them, and every time their dad raised his voice he would become agitated and bark. If their dad started yelling at them, Paddy would "herd" them towards a wall and then "pin" them there with his body, positioning himself between the kids and their dad, and then bare his teeth and growl.

I can't prove it, but I am sure that our loyal friend was bashed for his efforts a few times. In the end, he hardly went near my (now) ex unless the kids or I were around, and whenever we were home alone, Paddy would go around the garage and the sheds and lift his leg on anything that belonged to the guy.

By the time our abuser finally left, my kids and I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and I know it sounds weird, but I am convinced that old Paddy did too. He had a number of symptoms that were the same as ours at any rate: exaggerated startle reflex, nightmares, hyper-vigilance, trouble sleeping, and an increased need of love and affection (which we of course have been more than happy to provide).

Thankfully, ALL of our symptoms have pretty much disappeared now, although we all do still get "triggered" by certain things. Unfortunately we have stopped taking old Paddy for walks though, because although he had never once in his whole life showed any aggression to strangers whilst out walking, he started trying to bite any man who resembled a certain someone he used to know, and also started trying to chase certain types of cars if they had white paint jobs, and even dragged me half way up a hill of gravel on my back trying to run after one. Nowadays, the only time I take him for walks is after dark - I do not have the heart to put a muzzle on him...

Despite those few annoying (but perfectly understandable) behaviors, he is still our old Paddy boy, and neither I nor my kids will ever forget his courage and loyalty, or dare I say, even the way he craftily showed us what he thought of "the man of the house" by walking up to the man's possessions with a funny look of both dignity AND defiance, and lifting his leg.

Pets suffer when they see their owners suffer.
Pets suffer when they see their owners suffer.

At least we know for certain that he is much happier these days - he sings to us every chance he gets: "booowwooooohhhh wooooooohhhhhhhoooo! Abowowowwwwwoooh wooooohhhooooh!" and gets more excited to see us when we get home than he used to when he was a puppy! He sings whenever he hears a harmonica too... Oh and he doesn't like a couple of Pink's songs - he lies down and puts his paws over his ears whenever I play them.....LOL Pets! They certainly are part of the family, aren't they?

Are you on FaceBook?

I have a few groups and pages on facebook. One page that is very popular is called "STOP the violence against women & children". I also have a group directly related to the contents of this article, called "Pets are part of the family and suffer from family violence along with us". If you are a facebooker, please visit my page/group and "like" or "join". Here are the links to each:

STOP the Violence Against Women & Children
STOP the Violence Against Women & Children

Please join me on FaceBook

  • STOP the Violence Against Women & Children
    Organize to Resist! Together we can take on the Predators! Let's Break the Silence to End the Violence by working together to make our voices a Resounding SHOUT!!! Perpetrators BEWARE - you don't stand a chance!

Please Note:

All names in this article have been changed for legal purposes and to protect the privacy of the Author. Except where otherwise credited, or where text forms part of an external link, this article is under the following copyright:

Copyright © 2010 Mel Stewart, "safe-at-last", of Perth, Western Australia. All rights reserved.

All persons, places and objects shown in the images in this hub are are shown for illustrative purposes only. They bear no relation to any real person or event. All persons shown are paid models. Unless otherwise credited, all images are under the following copyright:

Copyright © 2010 Mel Stewart, "safe-at-last" and Licensors Nodtronics Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.


Submit a Comment

  • howlermunkey profile image

    Jeff Boettner 

    6 years ago from Tampa, FL

    Awesome and emotional hub. I personally know people who have suffered a great pet loss due to family violence. It's awesome there are people out there willing to shelter them.


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