At today's meeting, a fascinating presentation by Orange Co Animal Services (OCAS) was on the agenda. The Shannon Burke case in Seminole County has spotlighted the correlation between DV and animal abuse in a dramatic fashion. But prior to the Burke shooting incident, Harbor House and OCAS were working on a collaborative effort to train Animal Services' officers to look for signs of DV when investigating cruelty, neglect and abandonment cases. I was astounded to learn that:
- Up to 75% of domestic violence victims report that their partners threatened or killed family pets
- 48% of victims delay leaving an abusive home because they do not have a safe place for their pets
- One million animals per year are abused or killed in connection with domestic violence nationally
- 32% of pet-owning victims of DV reported that their child had hurt or killed a pet (this statistic demonstrates with chilling vividness how DV is a learned behavior)
- Animal abusers are 5 times more likely to commit violent crimes against people
- Animal abusers are 4 times more likely to commit property crimes
- 70% of animal abusers had records for other crimes
There were 4,106 animal cruelty, neglect and abandonment investigations in Orange County last year. This year's trend is showing a 15% increase over last year. OCAS began partnering with Crimeline earlier this year, resulting in abuse & neglect reports tripling in the first month of the partnership.
Orange County Animal Services and Harbor House are working to build an animal shelter on-site at Harbor House. The goal is to remove the barrier for victims who remain in an abusive situation because they know their abuser will harm their pet. OCAS is also working on a program to provide transportation for animals when victims seek shelter at Harbor House for themselves and their children - something that no other organization in the country provides. To support this worthwhile endeavor, please contact Harbor House.
Investigation of animal abuse is often the first point of social services intervention for a family in trouble. Statistically, 80% of homes with abused pets also had investigations by child welfare agencies due to reports of physical abuse and neglect. It is therefore crucial for all of us to report suspected animal abuse and neglect.