New Study From Urban Resource Institute Reveals Connection Between Domestic Violence and Pet Ownership

34% of URI shelter residents who owned a pet while in an abusive relationship reported that their partner harmed their pet.

Urban Resource Institute (URI), a leading provider of domestic violence programs and services in New York City, released a new white paper, Escaping Domestic Violence as a Pet Owner: Insights from survivors of domestic violence and recommendations from the Urban Resource Institute’s URIPALS program. The white paper reveals data collected between June 2013 and May 2015 from URIPALS (People and Animals Living Safely), the only program in New York City and one of the few in the U.S. that allows domestic violence survivors to co-shelter (live in a domestic violence shelter with their pets).

Drawing on data from a survey of URI shelter residents, responses from callers to URI’s emergency shelter hotline, and a survey of those entering the URIPALS program, the white paper provides insight into the connection between domestic violence and pet ownership, highlights the challenges domestic violence survivors who are also pet owners face when attempting to flee their abusers, and examines the critical requirements for building and implementing a co-sheltering program such as URIPALS.

Findings from URI’s emergency shelter hotline include:

  • 71% of callers indicated they would like their pet to reside in shelter with them
  • 30% of callers indicated their pet had been threatened by their abuser
  • 24% of callers indicated that their abuser threatened to harm them if they protected their pet

Findings from URI’s Resident Satisfaction Survey include:

  • 34% of URI shelter residents who had a pet at any point while in an abusive relationship said their abusive partner inflicted physical harm on their pets
  • 4% of URI shelter residents reported that they had witnessed their abusive partner kill an animal

The white paper also highlights a number of URI client stories and examples, in which survivors detail how abusers harmed their pets and harmed them if they tried to protect their pets. Abusers often leverage pets as a means of controlling their partners. These stories demonstrate the danger pets and their owners face during incidents of domestic violence.

“Pets are part of the family, and the URIPALS program has been a lifeline for many, allowing entire families, pets included, to flee an abusive situation and heal together safely,” said Nathaniel Fields, President and CEO of URI. “However, the lack of co-sheltering programs currently available in the U.S. creates a major barrier to safety for many families who are unwilling to leave an abusive situation if it means being separated from their pet. It is our hope that these findings will shine a brighter light on the great need within the community for programs like URIPALS and allow other organizations to start their own co-sheltering initiatives.”

The full white paper can be downloaded here.


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