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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Issue: 03/07/2020

Breaking the chains

I was interested in your story about the link between animal and domestic abuse. There has long been a strong connection between domestic violence and cruelty to animals. A link that has been known about for many years.
In America they have the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act. This law, ‘establishes a grant program for entities that provide shelter and housing assistance for domestic violence survivors … with pets.’
Pets are included in federal law, ‘pertaining to interstate stalking, protection order violations, and restitution. These provisions provide law enforcement with additional tools for protecting victims from their abusers.’
It also provides money so that the pets of domestic abuse victims can be fostered or sheltered. A majority of abuse survivors say that their dogs have been threatened, harmed or killed by abusive partners.
The law enables women from having to make a choice between finding safety and protecting their pet.
It is known that abusers will attack the family dog to get the submission they want. It is a way of them saying, ‘this will happen to you.’ They can use the animal as a hostage so the victim is worried about what will happen to their animal if they speak out or leave.
Abusers don’t like competition. A dog can be the only source of safe loving contact a woman may have in that situation, especially if there are no children.
A recent poll found that nearly 50% of domestic violence victims stay in abusive situations because they don’t want to leave their pet behind. This, obviously, results in further abuse of the victim and her dog.
It has been reported that during lockdown there has been an increase in domestic absue. There will also have been a related increase in animal cruelty during this time.
We need a similar law in this country so that women (and men) who are being abused by their partner can get out and make sure that their dog is safe as well.
Violence begets violence and it has also been established that childhood cruelty to animals seems to occur more often in homes with domestic violence than in other homes. This seems to suggest that cruelty to animals may take place in response to witnessing violence as well as being a direct victim of abuse.
Study after study has shown that a violent family environment can lead to childhood cruelty to animals which then develops into antisocial behaviour as they grow up. These people could then become domestic abusers and so the cycle continues.
In your article you mention how the RSPCA and the NSPCC are working together to identify victims both animal and human so that hopefully somehow they can break this chain of violence.
In Scotland I think I am right in saying abuse of a pet is seen as domestic abuse. We need something similar to be introduced in England.
We need to break the chains of violence.
Yours etc,
Abigal Willan

Action needed on pet theft

It seems to me that to make pet theft a specific crime is a no brainer.
Everyone I have spoken to about this agrees that there should be a crime of pet theft. Dog owners and non-dog owners all agree that, to state the obvious, a dog is different from a TV or a microwave and if it gets stolen it has a devastating effect on the whole family.
The government have accepted that dogs are sentient creatures. They announced in the Queen’s speech that they will introduce legislation that recognises animal sentience. So if they recognise that a dog is a sentient creature they can no longer lump it in with inanimate objects when it comes to theft.
They argue that emotional distress is taken into account when it comes to sentencing but as Dr Daniel Allen has shown the number of prosecutions for pet theft is going down while the number of thefts taking place is increasing.
Following on from your ‘Greeders’ story the other week it has been established that during lockdown the demand for dogs has only increased during this period. This has made dogs an even more valuable commodity.
Now I understand the number of burglaries has gone down during lockdown whilst people have been working from home but as lockdown eases the thieves will back out there looking to steal dogs. In particular, pedigree dogs as they know how valuable they are.
At the moment given the profit that can be made criminals will see pet theft as an easy hit because in the unlikely event they get caught they will not face much of a punishment even if they do.
We need an adequate deterrent and they need to know that if they steal a dog there is a good chance that they will get the punishment to fit the crime.
Because when a dog is taken it is as if a member of the family has been stolen. It has been known to destroy some families.
You might think I am being melodramatic but why are perfectly respectable families willing to meet shady people in car parks to buy back their own dogs. This shows how much a dog means to a family that ordinary people are willing to do anything to get their dogs back.
A friend of mine was distraught when she had her dog stolen from the back seat of her car. She had just gone in to the garage to pay for petrol when a couple of opportunist thieves took the dog.
She put adverts up around the neighbourhood and placed the dog on dog lost. A reward was promised for the safe return of the dog. Her children were distraught and all they wanted to do was to get her dog back home.
It never came home.
The government needs to act and the law needs to change!
Yours etc,
Jonathan Chaplet

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