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Prosecuting Intimate Partner Violence and Animal Cruelty

NCJ Number
John Wilkinson, J.D.
Date Published
November 2012
4 pages
This article outlines a coordinated community response to co-occurring animal abuse and domestic violence, together with the use of strategies for successful prosecutions in the absence of victim active participation.
The article first presents statistics that show the link between the perpetration of animal cruelty and domestic violence. Perpetrators of domestic violence will often injure or kill family pets in order to intimidate, control, or punish their intimate partners. In order to protect victims of domestic violence and their pets while holding offenders accountable for their abuse, prosecutors and allied professionals must cooperate in developing and sustaining an effective response. This coordination facilitates improved identification, investigation, and prosecution of cruelty toward animals, which may lead to associated domestic violence. A coordinated community response involves collaboration among police, prosecutors, victim advocates, domestic violence shelters, healthcare professionals, veterinary professionals, and humane society personnel. When these professionals collaborate, communicate, and cross-train one another, they improve their response to co-occurring animal cruelty and domestic violence. A checklist of questions is provided for assessing the level of coordination among these professionals. Domestic violence victims face many adverse consequences that result from their participation in the prosecution of their batterers. This often causes them to retract their report of abuse or decide to withdraw from participation in the criminal justice intervention. A coordinated community response that provides victims with access to advocacy and other support services may encourage continued victim participation; however, an evidence-based investigation improves the likelihood of a successful prosecution even without the victim's participation. This article reviews the features of an evidence-based domestic-violence investigation. The article concludes with a focus on victim safety that also encompasses the safety of her pet. A checklist of questions related to victim and pet safety is provided. 7 notes