(Montreal) Domestic violence has its share of collateral victims. Along with spouses, children and families of victims, pets are often witnesses to violence when they are simply not the target.
Posted at 10:45am
Marie-Eve Martel The Canadian Press
The pet can be exploited by an abusive spouse to gain power over their spouse, explains Annick Brazeau, president of the Regroupement des centers pour femmes Victims de Violence Conjugale and director of the Pour Elles des Deux-Vallées support and shelter center in Outaouais.
“He will hit and kill the animal and say to his victim, ‘Next time it will be you,'” she says. The attacker knows that the animal is a source of comfort to the victim, and by hurting it hurts it by bouncing off. »
Due to a protective reflex, the animal can also get between the executioner and his victim during outbreaks of violence, she adds.
Additionally, according to Carl Girard, founder of the SPA des Cantons and founder of the Association of Canine Trainers of Quebec, many dogs that have witnessed or been victims of domestic violence don’t make it.
Like the victim, the dog is severely traumatized and would also need to travel to recover. But you can’t blame the victim if they don’t feel able or don’t have the resources to help their dog when they try to pull themselves out.
Carl Girard, founder of the SPA des Cantons and founder of the Association of Canine Trainers of Quebec
“But in any case, the animal is paying for the violence that is going on in the house,” he continues.
Police forces do not compile data on animals that have been abused in domestic violence cases, we learned after submitting a few requests for information.
An obstacle to leaving the spouse
The links between domestic violence and animal cruelty are well known to animal welfare organizations, says Me Sophie Gaillard, executive director of the Montreal SPCA.
The presence of an animal in the home where the violence is taking place sometimes causes the victim to delay seeking help. For example, an abusive spouse may threaten to attack the pet to exercise control over their partner.
“It’s common for the victim, thinking about leaving the unhealthy situation, to hesitate because they don’t want to abandon the animal and leave it at the mercy of the attacker,” says Me Gaillard.
Or because they return home to feed the animal or see how it’s doing, women come into contact with their attacker, making marriage difficult to break up, Ms Brazeau points out.
requested places of refuge
Unfortunately, most homes or shelters for victims of domestic violence do not allow them to bring their pets, particularly due to lack of space and resources.
“There are several security issues related to all of this. In addition to the space issue, Ms. Brazeau points out that we welcome people who may be allergic or afraid of animals. There are also animals that become violent because they have been mistreated. »
This is without considering the diversity of animals that makes it difficult to welcome them. “We get requests, but not just for dogs and cats,” notes Annick Brazeau. We see rabbits, hamsters, rats… We’ve already had a request for a boa and even a horse! »
The need to house the animals for a few weeks or even a few months while the victim moves has been expressed by the RMFVVC for several years, Ms Brazeau indicates.
“This is a difficulty and a need for which we must find solutions,” emphasizes the Director and President. Some of our members have attempted partnerships with SPAs or with groups of volunteers who find temporary housing for the animals, but these are case-by-case solutions. »
From a legal point of view, caring for pets is an issue with several gray areas for animal shelters.
“First, we can’t always determine with certainty that the victim is actually the owner of the animal,” says another source familiar with the file. Then, when the abusive spouse comes to demand it, we have no choice but to give it to them. »
Until then, Ms. Brazeau is encouraging relatives of victims of domestic violence to take their pet under their wing.
“Sometimes we wonder how we can help someone who is experiencing violence,” she says. Taking care of your pet is a great way to make yourself useful.
“We must not forget that the victim also has to move afterwards,” she continues. And there it is not easy to find accommodation where animals are accepted. This is another problem to solve. »
A grant program to help animal shelters care for these pets is currently being outlined at the Justice Department, The Canadian Press learned. However, it was not possible to learn more as the details of this initiative are not yet public.
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