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Animal abuse and intimate partner violence: researching the link and its significance in Ireland - a veterinary perspective

DOI: 10.1186/2046-0481-61-10-658

Keywords: animal abuse, cat, dog, domestic violence, non-accidental injury

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Abstract:

A number of recent studies have highlighted the relationship between non-accidental injury (NAI) in animals (also known as 'battered pet syndrome') and domestic violence [20,3,6,15]. Further research identifies that intimate partner violence, abuse of children and abuse of companion pets tends to occur in the same families ([9,1,2]; Boat, 1995; [6,15,14]). Flynn [15] found that 46.5% of women using a refuge in South Carolina reported that their abuser had either harmed or threatened to harm their pets. Other studies have suggested a higher prevalence. Ascione [5] demonstrated that almost two-thirds of women who suffered domestic violence also witnessed abuse of, or threats to, their pets. A study in the United Kingdom identified similar statistics, with 66% of women in one survey reporting threats, and 38% reporting actual abuse of their pet [26]. This data indicates that animal abuse in the context of interpersonal violence is likely to be more prevalent and universal than was previously realised. While it is likely that similar patterns of multiple forms of abuse can be found in Ireland, no Irish study has examined this aspect of intimate partner violence.The purpose of this study, undertaken by veterinary practitioners and a social worker, was to examine the 'link' between domestic violence and animal abuse in Ireland, and to establish to what extent the abuse of pets is used to control women within an abusive relationship. In doing so, the aim is to raise awareness of the 'link' amongst the staff of women's refuges, social workers, childcare workers and veterinary practitioners.Official Irish statistics place reports of violence against women within European and US figures, with the only Irish national prevalence study to-date [19] showing that 18% of women had, at some time in their lives, been victims of emotional, sexual or physical violence, or subject to threats of violence, and had their property or pets damaged, by male intimate partners. European Union f

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