Dogs are Domestic Violence Survivors Too

Last year, I met Jen and her dog, Milo (not their real names.) I asked Jen to describe how Milo had changed her life. She looked at Milo with a love that I’d never seen before. She told me “this dog saved my life. We were in an abusive relationship two years ago. It took Milo a long time to like men again, but now he’s happy. He jumps up and down like Tigger.” It was hard not to notice how closely Milo stuck by Jen, rarely taking his eye off her. He chased the ball but always came right back and circled around Jen.

meet jen and miloA few days later, I contacted Jen to clarify what she meant by “we were in an abusive relationship.” Did she mean that Milo had been abused, were they both abused? Jen explained that they had both been abused and that she’d left the relationship to save Milo’s life. She said she would be in touch because she wanted to share her story. I never heard from her again. Her profile was deleted from IG and Facebook. I don’t know where she lives, and I have no way to reach her.

One in 4 women and 1 in 9 men have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner. Abusers often threaten or harm pets as a way to control their victims. When I launched Dog Like Me, I wanted to create a community of dog lovers to spread positive messages, lift each other up and provide valuable resources. How you can help?

  • know the warning signs
  • understand why people stay in abusive relationships
  • volunteer to foster pets while families seek a new life free of abuse

Often survivors of Domestic Violence hesitate to leave abusive situations because they don’t want to leave their pets. There are rescue agencies that will arrange foster care for pets and some shelters accept pets so that they can stay with the family.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline has advocates who will help create a safety plan that includes caring for survivors and pets. The Hotline is open 24/7 to provide resources and support to Domestic Violence survivors. Call 800.799.SAFE(7233) or chat online where trained experts offer free, confidential support to help survivors live a life free of abuse. @ndvhofficial

Another resource is Safe Place for Pets which provides a list of pet-friendly domestic violence shelters, as well as organizations that will arrange foster care for pets of domestic violence survivors when pets can’t go to a shelter with their family.

This Dogstory was written by Kara, Founder of Dog Like Me, in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October 2020.