Today, 1 April 2019, Scotland introduced the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act. It’s a wonderful Act because, as the title to this article states, if a partner threatens to harm his partner’s cat, dog or any other companion animal that person is treated as if he (or she) is threatening the person and is a domestic abuser.
“likely to cause the person to suffer physical or psychological harm”,says Det Supt Gordon McCreadie for Police Scotland about the definition of ‘coercive behavior’.
It’s a great piece of legislation because – and it is normally men who employ this tactic – men who want to get at and emotionally harm their female partner often do so by either abusing the woman’s cat or threatening to abuse their cat. This creates great emotional distress and has a controlling influence.
It is also a form of coercive control over a woman. It’s a very effective way, in fact, to control a woman. It can keep a woman chained to the home when she should leave because she is frightened about her cat being abused.
“They [perpetrators] are preventing the victim from leaving abuse because often they have nowhere to go with their pet, or they’ve threatened to seriously harm or kill the animal if they were to leave,” forensic veterinarian Dr Lydia Tong told Hack last year
There are many instances on the Internet of this form of domestic abuse. Apparently, statistics tell us that in America, 71% of abuse against women includes their companion animal being harmed, killed or threatened as a way to control the woman.
Domestic abuse per se is also a very important precursor of greater violence against other people. It’s almost a three-step approach. Abuse against a companion animal to harm a woman in a relationship is the first stage. The second stage is harming the woman herself, directly. The third stage is that the abuser inflicts violence against third parties.
This law is a great concept and a much-needed law. It should be introduced worldwide.
In a timely manner, there is an interesting article about domestic abuse on the ABC Australian news website. In the article there is reference to one woman’s harrowing story. Here is a quote from her story. She refers to her step-father’s abuse and intimidation:
“He would regularly smash things around the house in a rage, or flip the dinner table. Once he cut the head off my mother’s pet to ‘teach her a lesson’. He regularly beat – and I mean beat – the shit out of our dogs. Hearing the sounds of this in my memory is still gut-wrenchingly sickening.”
Finally, we must not ignore the impact of domestic abuse and violence on companion animals as they are used as pawns in a human dispute. They are family members. We cannot look upon them as second-class citizens and believe that we are superior to them.
I’m convinced that there are numerous instances of cats and dogs become depressed and anxious because they are in abusive homes and/or had been abused themselves as a means to control the primary carer. Animals developed fear responses. They hide and show signs of anxiety. For example, in an Australian report of 2016, Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence, there are harrowing accounts.
One participant said that her dog, Maddie, became depressed and anxious after her ex-partner’s bullying and abuse. Her dog would constantly walk around with her head down and her tail between her legs. She became anxious through insecurity. Maddie developed a stress -related skin condition. It got so bad that her euthanasia was considered. We must think of the companion animals under these dire circumstances.