Kansas City, Mo, April 1, 2022 – In general, most pet owners would agree that our pets are members of the family, and as such provide a level of unspoken healing through the unique human-animal bond. However, it’s because of this bond that they can also be used as tools of control by an abusive partner. As a matter of fact, 71% of pet-owning survivors reported that their abuser had injured, killed or threatened family pets in order to control the relationship.
It is because of this that three local service agencies, KC Pet Project, Rose Brooks Center, and Synergy Services, have come together to create another access point for survivors to get help when there is a co-occurrence of pet abuse and domestic violence. ICU, which stands for “identify, connect, unite,” was formed to train Animal Services Division how to screen for domestic violence when dispatched on an animal abuse, neglect, or bite case.
It works like this; after arriving to the home, the Animal Service Officer (ASO) asks the community member, privately, three screening questions. The questions are designed to assess the level of danger in the home for both the pet and the pet owner. After the assessment, if it is safe to do so, the ASO can immediately connect the owner to a domestic violence service agency. Rose Brooks Center, south of the river, and Synergy Services, north of the river.
Rose Brooks Center’s Lethality Assessment Manager, Cayla Waller explains, “Creating a link to services through an ASO, is just one step to breaking the cycle of domestic violence and protecting survivors – survivors who may have never been availed to services otherwise.”
Retired police officer Kim Shaw-Ellis, is Synergy Services Community Police Liaison, and echoes this logic, “Domestic Violence affects us all and pets are the silent voices we don’t hear. The co-occurrence of Domestic Violence and Animal cruelty is something we have overlooked for way too long. Working together and bridging that gap is the only way to make a true impact. We CAN save lives…together!”
Based on national statistics, ICU knows this is a need in the community.
- Approximately 50% of survivors of domestic violence say they are unable to escape abusive situations because they worry about what will happen to their pets should they leave.
- Abusers of animals are 5 times more likely to abuse people.
- 66% of sheltered children have witnessed animal abuse.
Because of these risks, finding accommodation for your pet when escaping a violent relationship is just one part of a safety plan. With this new program ICU hopes to reach more survivors through one of the most vulnerable family members – their beloved pet. ICU is currently training Animal Services Officers and hope to have successful data to share with the larger community in the near future. Official launch of the program is today, Friday, April 1.