Documenting Signs of Abuse - Animal Law Source

Documenting Signs of Abuse

What can you do to help?


  • ASK VICTIMS ABOUT PETS IN THE HOME.Victims are often reluctant to talk about abuse that has been directed at them, but they may be more comfortable talking about abuse to their pets, which can then break the ice about discussing their own abuse. Neighbors are more likely to report suspected animal abuse than child welfare, domestic violence or elder abuse cases, thereby making their local humane society, SPCA or animal control agency a “first responder” and the first point of social-services contact for a family in crisis. Children who talk about having many pets that died or disappeared may be trying to say that their pets have been killed or abused, and further investigation is necessary.


  • Be sure to document any signs of animal abuse and report it to the appropriate agency empowered to investigate animal cruelty.


  • Many victims will not go forward with the prosecution of their abuser. However, prosecution on animal cruelty charges can result in incarceration or treatment equivalent to what might result from a domestic violence prosecution.


  • Work with legislators to insure that pets can be included in orders of protection.


  • Educate judges about the necessity to include pets in protective orders.


  • Work with your local humane organizations or animal control to establish programs for the emergency housing of pets coming from homes experiencing violence.


  • Assist victim with gathering documents to prove that the pet legally belongs to the victim, in order to minimize custody disputes, keeping in mind that pets are considered property. These records may include proof of payment for the animal and/or license, proof of vaccinations, and receipts or a letter from the animal’s veterinarian, as well as statements from those who know the animal to belong to the victim.


  • If the victim is making plans to leave, discuss necessary items such as vaccination and medical records, a collar and ID tags, pet carrier, leash, medications, favorite toys, etc.


  • Safe haven for Pets of Domestic Violence – be sure your office is aware of this great resource: Ahimsa House