Newspaper Wrings Hands Over Abused Pets While Ignoring Lack of Services for Abused Men

Riverside, CA–Background: Recently California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell, and numerous California and Connecticut legislators took strong measures to protect goldfish, bunny rabbits, cats, dogs, and hamsters like little Cinnamon (pictured) from abusive relationships.

Earlier this year Rell signed a bill to protect pet victims of domestic violence and explained with a straight face, “Pets are too often the silent victims of domestic violence. They cannot fight back, and they are presently afforded no protection under our current legal system.’

According to Dr. Ned Holstein, Executive Director of Fathers & Families, Massachusetts has picked up this crucial public health issue with HB 1546.

Earlier this year Mike McCormick, Executive Director of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, and I co-authored a column on the bill Schwarzenegger signed– see CA Legislators Vote to Protect Pets from Domestic Violence but Deny Services to Male DV Victims (Long Beach Press-Telegram, 4/21/07).

The story below from the Riverside Press-Enterprise decries the fact that–no joke–there are “few resources to protect Inland Empire pets caught up in domestic violence.” But all hope is not lost:

“Animal Safety Net [is] one of few safe-house programs for animals caught in the web of domestic violence…

“Riverside County Department of Animal Services officials have acknowledged the need to protect animals in violent households…In most parts of the country, pets continue to be silent victims of domestic violence, [Madeline Bernstein, president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Los Angeles] said…

“Animal Safety Net works with prosecutors, social workers, sheriff’s officials and domestic-violence shelters to remove animals from abusive situations and temporarily house them in secret foster homes until the domestic-violence victims can find a safe place for the animals.

“It starts when police or social workers ask domestic-violence victims if they fear for their pets. If they do, authorities can retrieve the pets and place them in protective custody…there have been discussions within the department about ways to serve pets caught up in domestic violence, John Welsh said.

“In some regions, police, prosecutors, social workers and animal shelters work together to make sure that the animals are protected along with human victims, [Frank R. Ascione, a psychology professor at Utah State University] said. Some agencies refer pets to animal safe houses, and some county animal shelters take pains to hide the pets from abusers by housing them separately from pets up for adoption and by obscuring their names and ages, he said.

“At Animal Friends in The Valleys of Lake Elsinore, animal-control officers can remove pets from an abusive home and keep them in protective custody if the domestic-violence victim signs an affidavit swearing to the threat against the animal.

“‘We will do whatever it takes to make sure the animal is safe,’ said Monique Middleton, an officer at the shelter.”

Everyone’s concern and soul-searching over abused hamsters is touching–particularly when there is not one domestic violence shelter in all of Riverside County which does outreach to abused men. I’m not aware of one that will even take in an abused man.

And as far as I know there is not one police program in all of Riverside County which focuses on helping abused men escape their violent wives. This is despite decades of research which shows that women are as likely to abuse their husbands as vice versa, and that a third of all domestic violence related injuries are suffered by men.

The full article is Few resources protect Inland pets caught up in domestic violence (Riverside Press-Enterprise, 1/20/08)

To write a Letter to the Editor about this story, go to The reporter, Paige Austin, can be reached at 951-893-2106 or

[Note: If you or someone you love is being abused, the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women provides crisis intervention and support services to victims of domestic violence and their families.]

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