The LINK between Domestic Violence & Animal Abuse

It will come as no surprise to you, I’m sure, that there is a link between animal abuse and domestic violence. According to the Alberta SPCA, unknowndecision-making regarding leaving an abusive situation is negatively impacted by the presence of companion animals, and perhaps, to an even greater degree, by the ownership of livestock.  The statistics are significant: 59% of abused women who had animals
delayed leaving out of concern for their animals.  The full report can be accessed at

It is a real concern. What happens to the animals when a partner leaves an abusive relationship? In Ottawa, we now have an organization called SafePet that connects victims of abuse with a safe place for their pet. The pets are fostered until it is safe to be reunited with their family again. Find out more on their website:

What about legislation? What does the LAW say as 8149dcb5d1dfb3c75c1749559899bccfto what happens to the abused animals when a marriage dissolves in Canada? I haven’t yet found anything significant in my research. What I have found so far is more focused on regulating the animal’s behaviour rather than people’s behaviour towards animals. I’m either looking in the wrong spot or there is nothing to find. The State of Alaska is addressing the issue of what happens to pets living with domestic and/or animal violence when a marriage dissolves. Alaska has devised the most comprehensible bill in the U.S. (if not the world).  “Alaska HB 147 was signed into law on Oct. 27. The law, which takes effect on Jan. 17, 2017, will allow victims to petition the court for a protective order that the abuser may not remove, harm or dispose of any animals in the household, and to grant her exclusive care and custody of them. Peace officers investigating domestic violence cases must inform victims of this provision. The law also declares pets to be marital property and gives courts authority to decide individual or joint custody when people divorce, with consideration of what would be best for the animal. It also defines an act of animal abuse in this context as domestic violence.” (Link Newsletter, November 2016)

This article below is from the November 2016 Link Letter. Permission to repost was granted. Check out more on the link between animal abuse and domestic violence on their website:

Alaska Legislation Allows Courts to Consider Pet Well-Being in Marriage Dissolutions and Pet Protective Orders

The State of Alaska has enacted the most comprehensive bill in the U.S., if not the world, addressing animal abuse committed to intimidate a spouse or partner in domestic violence settings. Gov. Bill Walker signed HB 147 into law on Oct. 27 in a ceremony that was widely awaited by the domestic violence, animal protection and Link communities (See the May 2016 LINK-Letter).

The measure, which takes effect Jan. 17, 2017, includes the following groundbreaking provisions:

  • The amended statutes AS 25.24.160(a),
    AS 25.24.210(e), AS 25.24.220(d), AS
    25.24.220(g), and AS 25.24.230(a) now
    allow Alaska courts to consider the well-
    being of animals when determining custody The new law will allow courts to consider animals’ well-being
    or joint ownership by a couple as part of a when awarding custody in divorce cases, include pet care costs in divorce proceeding. Such a provision has divorce decrees, add pets to protection-from-abuse orders, and long been established in child custody cases define animal abuse as an act of domestic violence.
  • Courts may now also amend divorce or marriage dissolution agreements relating to child custody and support, visitation, division of property and retirement benefits, and spousal maintenance to include ownership of an animal, taking into consideration the well-being of the animal.

Advocates (both human and canine) were on hand on Oct. 19 when Alaska Gov. Bill Walker signedinto law the historic HB 147


  • AS 18.66.100(c) now allows domestic violence protective orders to grant petitioners possession of a pet, regardless of the ownership of the pet. In addition, this provision must now be printed on the form providing notice to a victim of domestic violence. Alaska joins 30 other states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico with Pet Protection Order provisions.
  • Petitioners can now also ask the court to issue a protective order that requires the abuser to pay support not only for the victim or minor children, but also for pets in the petitioner’s care.
  • Under new terms in AS 18.66.990(3), Alaska now joins eight other states where an act of animal cruelty to a pet within a domestic violence context is also defined as domestic violence and can be prosecuted accordingly. Such provisions already exist in Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Maine, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Tennessee. In addition, Louisiana and Arkansas are believed to have provisions whereby a history of animal abuse can be defined as emotional abuse and presented in domestic violence prosecutions as an enhancement to penalties (See the February 2016 LINK-Letter).The amended statute AS 18.65.590 now defines a pet as “a vertebrate living creature maintained for companionship or pleasure.” It does not include dogs owned primarily for mushing or pulling contests or practices or animals used primarily in rodeos or stock contests.

About The Author

Chantal Mills, BEd., CSAT, CPDT-KA

Owner and Lead Trainer of Ottawa Canine School. Chantal has a passion for teaching!

Chantal is a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (CSAT), an accredited dog trainer (Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed), a member of the American Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) and a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG – the Association for Force-Free Pet Professionals). She regularly attends conferences, workshops, seminars and webinars to keep up to date with the latest in the industry.

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