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Why won't she leave him? Abused women often fear for pets left behind
Date:9/25/2013

URBANA, Ill. Veterinarians and women's shelters can make it easier for abused women to decide to leave their homes, particularly when the abuser is using a beloved pet as part of a campaign to control his partner, reports a new University of Illinois study.

He made me stand there and . . . watch [him kill my cat]. And he was like: That could happen to you, one woman in the study said.

"These incidences are very symbolic of what the abuser is capable of doing. He's sending the message: I can do something just as severe to hurt you," said Jennifer Hardesty, a U of I associate professor of human development and family studies.

For the study, Hardesty interviewed 19 abused women about their decisions on what to do with their pets when they were seeking help from a shelter.

A recent study found that 34 percent of women had delayed leaving out of concern for their pets because their abuser had threatened and harmed the animals in the past, Hardesty noted.

"For abused women, a pet can be a treasured source of unconditional love and comfortmaybe even protectionin a time of transition. Many are strongly bonded to their animals," she said.

Hardesty stressed that not all abused women are strongly bonded to their pets, and not all abusers target pets as part of their campaign to control their partner.

She does recommend that shelter personnel ask women if they have pets in their home, if they need help placing the pets somewhere, and if something should be done to protect the animals.

At present, only a few shelters welcome pets. In response, the U of I College of Veterinary Medicine is pioneering a program that provides a safe haven for pets until women in shelters can find housing and reclaim their animals.

"It would be ideal if the pet was able to stay with the woman at the shelter, but you'd need a reasonably well socialized and non-aggressive animal for that, and it would require a majo
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Contact: Phyllis Picklesimer
p-pickle@illinois.edu
217-244-2827
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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