Domestic violence against people, pets linked

A community discussion on the connection between domestic violence and violence against pets and animals will take place on Monday, Sept. 19, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the East Whiteland Township Building.

 State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19, will be joined by Rachel Haynes-Pinsker of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, according to a press release from Dinniman’s office.

 “Study after study has demonstrated the direct link between violence against animals and violence against people,” Dinniman said in the release. “We know that those who harm animals are likely to harm people. It’s time that we tighten our laws and raise the penalties to both protect our pets and protect our families.”

Pinsker will open the discussion with an overview of the issue, which impacts a startling number of victims of domestic violence.  Dinniman will then provide an update on his Senate Bill 594, the Pet Protection from Domestic Abuse Act, legislation that calls for strengthening Pennsylvania’s Animal Cruelty Law to increase the penalty when animal abuse happens in a domestic-violence situation.

The bill unanimously passed the Senate and is now on final consideration in the House.

According to a Foundation for Interdisciplinary Research and Education Promoting Animal Welfare (FIREPAW) study, up to 48 percent of domestic violence victims have delayed leaving a dangerous situation because they fear for their pet’s safety.  Figures provided by the Humane Society of the United States show that those fears are not unfounded, reporting that approximately one million animals are killed or abused in connection to domestic violence each year.

Pinsker, legal services manager for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, has provided 15 years of legal assistance to victims of domestic violence. She said that in her experience, abusers often lash out at companion animals of their victims as a way to gain more control, the release said.

“The more isolated a domestic violence victim becomes, the more attached they are to their pet.  Often, an abuser becomes jealous of this attachment and punishes the animal as another form of abuse toward their victim,” Pinsker said in the release.

Dinniman will also discuss support of a program for domestic violence shelters and organizations to provide shelter to victims’ pets. He said plans to support and work with local organizations, like the Domestic Violence Center of Chester County, to help ensure that a victims’ pet could be provided with temporary shelter or foster care.

“Bringing the right people together within a community is the best way to work towards a solution and get things done,” Dinniman said in the release. “The services, resources, and support are here. It’s just a matter of aligning them to solve this problem.”

For more information, call Dinniman’s office at 610-692-2112 or e-mail acirucci@pasenate.com.

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