Justin needs your help! - UPDATED

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Justin is a 2-5 year old male old Heeler mix who came to the City of Denton Animal Shelter with a very bad broken front leg. He was sent to the vet and had it splinted. Justin was found in the county with a severe broken leg. The shelter is full and he needs a foster ASAP!!! DASF is raising funds to assist with his surgery, pain medications, antibiotics and anything else he needs! Please consider a donation - any amount is appreciated!

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x-ray of Justin's leg

 

Update - 8/14/18: Justin has been rescued by I AM Dog Rescue and has a foster! Donations are still needed for his surgery, medications and aftercare. 

Update - 8/15/18 AM: Justin is headed to surgery today! DASF has donated $1000 towards his surgery From our Emergency Medical Fund and we will continue to raise funds to cover the rest of his medical needs. We will not know the final number until  after his surgery this afternoon.  

Update 8/16/18 AM: 

Around 6:00pm last night, Dr. Dean completed Justin's surgery.  He said all went well.  Justin does have some infection and will be on Clavamox until the culture results returns in about five days.

Afterwards, he may be on a more specific antibiotic.  He'll be transported to Dr. Dean's clinic in Pilot Point where his foster and Mike from I AM Dog Rescue will meet him.  Mike will follow the foster family home and set up Justin's crate, and go over medications and protocol for his recovery.  He'll have a e-collar for several weeks, bandage for about two weeks until stitches are removed, and crate rest for eight weeks.  It'll be a long haul, but he should have full use of his leg! 

Thanks to all of you for helping this guy! Thank you the generous support from donors, DASF raised enough money to cover the cost of all his needs! 

Thank you for helping us save more Denton area animals!

 

If you wish to help support our many programs, like the Emergency Medical Program and Adoption Subsidy Program, please click the button below. Or to find out how you can support DASF in other ways click here

 

 

Fireworks and Your Pet: Tips for Staying Safe This Fourth of July

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Fireworks and Your Pet: Tips for Staying Safe This Fourth of July 

Independence Day is tomorrow! The Fourth of July is always a great day to celebrate with family, friends and fur babies alike. While it may seem like a great idea to treat your pet to some celebration scraps and have them join in on all of the fun, the reality is that some festive foods and activities can be hazardous to your furry friends. People all across America are struggling with pet anxiety and The Fourth of July is a big stressor for many of them. We wanted to share tips from the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) to help keep your pet safe this holiday!

  • Never leave alcoholic drinks unattended. It’s no secret that alcoholic beverages have the potential to poison pets. If ingested, your pet could become very intoxicated and weak, severely depressed or could go into a coma. Death from respiratory failure is also a possibility in severe cases.
  • Keep an eye on those chemicals. Do not apply any sunscreen or insect repellent product to your pet that is not labeled specifically for use on animals. Ingestion of certain sunscreen products could result in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and lethargy. The misuse of insect repellents that contain the chemical DEET can lead to neurological problems. You should also keep citronella candles, insect coils and oil products out of pets’ reach, too. 
  • Be wary of where you keep your matches and lighter fluid.Certain types of matches contain chlorates, which could potentially damage blood cells and result in difficulty breathing—or even kidney disease in severe cases—if ingested. Lighter fluid comes with its own set of dangers, and can be irritating to skin. If ingested, it can produce gastrointestinal irritation and central nervous system depression. If lighter fluid is inhaled, aspiration pneumonia and breathing problems could develop.
  • Keep your pets on their normal diet. Sudden changes in your pet’s diet (even if it’s just for one day) can sometimes lead to indigestion and diarrhea. This is particularly true for older animals who have more delicate digestive systems and specific nutritional requirements. Not to mention, foods such as onions, chocolate, coffee, avocado, grapes, raisins, salt and yeast dough can all be potentially toxic to companion animals. Check out our full list of people foods to avoid feeding your pets for more information, and consider packing some of your pet’s favorite usual treats to give them something special on the holiday! 
  • Remember to keep a no-glow zone. For parties and celebrations that last into the night, glow sticks and glow jewelry are popular party favors. While the luminescent substance contained in these products is not highly toxic, excessive drooling and gastrointestinal irritation could still result from ingestion, and intestinal blockage could occur from swallowing large pieces of the plastic containers. Be sure to keep those items reserved for your human guests and avoid putting them on pets.
  • Be careful when it comes to fireworks! While exposure to lit fireworks can potentially result in severe burns and/or trauma to the face and paws of curious pets, even unused fireworks can pose a danger. Many types contain potentially toxic substances, including potassium nitrate, arsenic and other heavy metals. Loud noises can also be a big concern for some sensitive pets. See APCC’s full list of fireworks safety concerns and tips for more information. 

Fieworks are  the most common trigger for fearful behavior in dogs.

A 2013 study by the University of Bristol’s School of Veterinary Sciences found fireworks were the most common trigger for fearful behavior in dogs. Responses included:

  • trembling
  • shaking
  • hiding
  • seeking comfort
  • destruction
  • urination
  • salivation

So, why are dogs afraid of fireworks, and what can we do to help them? Fortunately, there are plenty of simple strategies for dog owners. From distraction to anti-anxiety vests and more, here’s some tips you need to help your pet feel better when the noises start.

Preventing escapes

Keep gates and doors closed. Given all the excitement around Independence Day parties, it isn’t uncommon for some pets to get scared and run away. Be sure that all exits are securely closed, and that your pet is inside or in your sight at all times. More dogs going missing over the 4th of July than at any other time of year. This can happen when you least expect it!

To help:

  1. Make sure your dog has identification. Even indoor pets can panic and use drastic measures to escape when frightened I’ve known many a dog to jump through a window or through a fence to get away from the loud noises.
  2. Micro-chipping your dog is a good protective step! Collars can come off and tags can get lost, but a microchip is forever! Make sure your pets microchip registration information is up to date so people can contact you when needed!
  3. Do not leave your dog unattended at home. If you are headed out to enjoy the holiday without them, find a sitter. If you do not have a pet-sitter already, Rover has short-term sitters for just such situations. 

I lost my pet! What should I do?

Please contact the Linda McNatt Animal Care & Adoption Center directly at 940-349-7594 to determine if your pet has been received at the shelter. If your pet is at the shelter, visit How to Recover Your Pet for information on reclaiming it. You may want to distribute flyers in your neighborhood, place a photo on the City of Denton Animal Shelter Facebook page and our Facebook page, consult your local newspaper and place a free newspaper ad. You may want to contact local rescue groups as well.

Most Veterinarians are closed during holidays, but the Denton County Animal Emergency Room will be open from 7/3 at 5:00pm to 7/5 at 8:00am.

(940) 271-1200

4145 S Interstate 35 E Ste 101
Denton, Texas 76210

Most pets have some level of fear when it comes to fireworks. You know your pet best, and will know how much to intervene during the festivities. When in doubt, remember that prevention, distraction, and lots of love are always a good idea!

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Monthly Paw Patrons

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Our local homeless cats and dogs always need your help! Be a hero and save lives every month by setting up a monthly automatic donation from your credit card. These monthly gifts allow DASF to plan ahead to provide funding for critical animal needs. From $5 to $100 a month, every gift helps Denton area animals! 

A huge THANK YOU goes out to our current Monthly Paw Patrons! 

You can sign up here to become a Monthly Paw Patron too!

Hyperthermia, leaving pets in cars and what Denton laws say residents can do about it.

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We are barely halfway into May and Denton is already expected to see temperatures in the mid 90’s this weekend. With the heat brings summer fun in the sun, but it is also brings many dangers with it. This is the time where veterinary practices all around the country start to prepare for heat stroke season. As someone who worked in veterinary medicine for over a decade, this is one of the scariest times of the year. I was at Walmart the other day, putting my groceries in my trunk, when I heard a sound that made my heart stop and my “spidey senses” go into full effect. I heard a dog barking their head off inside a hot locked car while their owner was inside shopping. I immediately called Animal Control and wait patiently for the owner to return. Thankfully, he returned and we had a somewhat nice conversation about why he shouldn't leave his pet in a car, but these situations do not always end well for everyone involved.

Most people haven’t had the experiences I have had when it comes to heat stroke, so it’s hard for people to realize just how dangerous it is. But as someone who has seen the suffering, from someone who has had animals die in my arms as I am trying desperately to save their lives, I beg of you, please stop leaving animals in hot cars. Please help educate people you know to stop leaving pets in cars and outside when it is too hot. Please help advocate for these pets.

Here are a couple videos that you may or may not have seen showing just how hot it gets in cars. They do a wonderful job at illustrating just how hot cars can get in a matter of minutes.

From my years in vet med, I can tell you most people don’t mean to do things that will hurt their pet. Most people simply don’t know better. It was my job to educate them then, and I will continue to do so for as long as I can. I dedicated my life to animal welfare, and even if I am no longer in the trenches placing IV catheters on dehydrated, overheated, panting (sometimes seizing) animals while my coworkers start other cooling measures, it is still my duty to do what I can to educate.

Tragedy is Preventable

A dog can begin to suffer from heat exhaustion once temperatures reach 83 degrees F. So basically, from here on out in Texas, we should all be on high alert. Although normal values for dogs vary slightly, it usually is accepted that body temperatures above 103° F are abnormal. When a dog’s core temperature approaches 106° F, heat stroke can quickly become fatal.

When dogs are hot, they begin to pant and drool. Other signs of heat exhaustion include vomiting, weakness, collapse and seizures.

Brachycephalic (short snouted) dog breeds with such as boxers, pugs, Shar-Peis, Boston terriers, Brussels griffons, mastiffs, chow-chows, bulldogs, French bulldogs, Shih Tzus, Staffordshire terriers, Lhasa apsos, and spaniels are more susceptible to heat stroke. In other words, they can fall victim to heat exhaustion at a faster rate than dog breeds with a longer snout.

I remember a long time ago rushing to the clinic I worked at to help out of of our really good clients. A client that always went above and beyond for her furbabies. She was at Dog Days (back when it was in the middle of summer) and her poor bulldog got overheated. They even had little pools for the dogs to play in, but this Texas summer heat was too much for the dog. The dog was fine one second and in need of help the next. It can be hard for people to know how hot is too hot for a pet, but I always err on the side of caution.  

Other risk factors include but are not limited to:

  • Previous history of heat-related disease
  • Age extremes (very young, very old)
  • Heat intolerance due to poor acclimatization to the environment (such as a heavy coated dog in a hot geographical location)
  • Obesity
  • Poor heart/lung conditioning
  • Underlying heart/lung disease
  • Increased levels of thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism)
  • Thick hair coat
  • Dehydration, insufficient water intake, restricted access to water
  • Hyperthermia (Heat Stroke) can lead to multiple organ dysfunction.Symptoms include:
  • Panting
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive drooling
  • Increased body temperature - above 103° F (39° C)
  • Reddened gums and moist tissues of the body
  • Production of only small amounts of urine or no urine
  • Sudden kidney failure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Irregular heart beats
  • Shock
  • Stoppage of the heart and breathing
  • Fluid build-up in the lungs; sudden breathing distress
  • Blood-clotting disorder(s)
  • Vomiting blood
  • Passage of blood in the bowel movement or stool
  • Black, tarry stools
  • Small, pinpoint areas of bleeding
  • Generalized inflammatory response syndrome
  • Disease characterized by the breakdown of red-muscle tissue
  • Death of liver cells
  • Changes in mental status
  • Seizures
  • Muscle tremors
  • Wobbly, uncoordinated or drunken gait or movement
  • Unconsciousness in which the dog cannot be stimulated to be awakened

IF YOUR PET IS EXPOSED TO HIGH TEMPERATURES:


1. If possible, while you are starting cooling measures, have someone call your veterinarian and let them know you are on your way. If they are not open call the Denton County Animal Emergency Room (940) 271-1200 and let them know you are on the way. Heat Stroke and Heat Stress are EMERGENCY situations and need to be addressed as soon as possible.  We do NOT recommend that you wait for until the next morning to take your pet in.

2. Start cooling measures by gradually lower his body temperature by sprinkling cool water on him. Do not soak him in cool or cold water because his temperature could drop too low. If their temperature drops too low too fast they risk going into shock.

3. Place cool, wet towels over the back of the neck, in the armpits, and in the groin area and paws. 

4. You may offer fresh, cool water if your dog is alert and wants to drink. Do not force your pet to drink.

Heat and Humidity are a Deadly Combination for Dogs

Humidity is also a contributing factor to heat stroke/heat exhaustion in dogs.

Humidity increases the heat index; for example, a relatively cool 75 degree day with 75 percent humidity can feel like a 150 degree day to a dog in a fur coat. It’s a deadly combination. It's best to exercise dogs early in the morning or in the evening and avoid taking dogs with you in a car in the case that you may have to leave them waiting for you for any period of time.

Hot Temperatures Inside a Car

The temperature inside a car — even with the windows rolled down — can quickly rise an additional 20 degrees within the first 10 minutes. Within five minutes, the temperature inside your car can rise another 10 degrees, and so forth. By then, it's too hot for your dog and heat exhaustion has set in. Within minutes, your dog could suffer heat stroke and die.

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How to help a pet left in a hot car

Take down the car's make, model and license plate number. If there are businesses nearby, notify their managers or security guards and ask them to make an announcement to find the car's owner. Many people are unaware of the danger of leaving pets in hot cars and will quickly return to their vehicle once they are alerted to the situation.

If the owner can't be found, call the non-emergency number of the Denton police (940) 349-8181 or animal control (940) 349-7594 and wait by the car for them to arrive. Good Samaritans in Denton, TX can NOT legally remove animals from cars under any certain circumstances.

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If you would like to see laws in Denton change please contact your local city council member. To find out who represents you at state and federal level, click here. This will provide you with contact information and you can talk to them about your concerns. 

There is only a snippet of information in the City of Denton Municipal Ordinances that talks about leaving animals in cars:

Sec. 6-12. - Animal care generally.

(2) It shall be unlawful for any person to intentionally or knowingly confine or allow to be confined any animal in a motor vehicle or trailer under such conditions or for such periods of time as may endanger the health or well-being of the animal due to heat, lack of food or water or any other circumstances which might cause suffering, disability or death. An animal control officer who reasonably believes that an animal is in a motor vehicle or trailer under such circumstances is authorized to enter the vehicle to remove the animal and transport the animal to the animal control center.

When I asked Paul O’Neill, Denton’s Animal Services Supervisor, about the city ordinances and if weather was a factor at all, this was his response: 

“If the animal is still in the vehicle when we get there then an officer has the authority to remove it. I am not aware of any Good Samaritan laws and would always caution damaging someone else’s property to remove an animal as you never know how the animal owner might react. The ordinance does not depend on the weather. I do like to be on scene when one of the officers removes the animal just in case the owner gets ugly but I don’t have to be.  People can contact us at 940-349-7594 or the non-emergency dispatch number 940-349-8181."

Ways to help - Information from The Humane Society of the United States

  • Get informed: Learn your town's and state's laws about leaving pets in hot cars. An increasing amount of states prohibit leavings pets in hot cars, and some grant immunity to good Samaritans who must rescue pets in visible distress.

  • Be ready to call for help: Gather essential telephone numbers and have them on hand. You’ll want to have your local animal control agency's number and the police department's non-emergency number so you can quickly report the situation. Keep these numbers in your purse, your car's glove compartment or programmed into your phone.

  • Spread the word: Distribute The Humane Society of the United States hot car flyer, which spells out the dangers of leaving pets in parked cars. (Order them in bulk from animalsheltering.org.) Watch and share their retro video on the issue. Also share guidelines with your local law enforcement officials for how to investigate hot car-related deaths.

  • Get involved: Ask local store managers, shopping malls, restaurants and other businesses to post signs asking customers not to leave their pets in their cars while shopping or dining. A huge part of the solution to this problem is raising awareness.

  • Speak up: If your town or state doesn't have a law prohibiting leaving pets in parked cars, contact your local representatives or attend a town hall meeting to start lobbying for one. Learn the basics about advocating for animals with our activist toolkit.

Sources

https://www.thenational.ae/uae/too-many-dogs-dying-of-heat-exhaustion-by-being-kept-outside-vets-say-1.192083

https://www.petinsurance.com/healthzone/pet-articles/pet-health/Hot-Car-Danger-to-Pets.aspx

http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/help-dog-in-hot-car.html

https://library.municode.com/tx/denton/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=SPACOOR_CH6AN

https://www.cityofdenton.com/en-us/residents/health-safety/animal-services

https://www.cityofdenton.com/en-us/government/departments/police

https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/cardiovascular/c_dg_heat_stroke


 

FREE Rabies Vaccine and Low Cost Vaccine Clinic Survey (Anonymous)

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In 2015, DASF sponsored 20 FREE Rabies vaccines at our first low cost vaccine clinic with TCAP. Fast forward a couple years and, with the help of our friends at TCAP, 100% of the rabies vaccines administered at the low cost vaccine clinic are FREE. As the population grows in Denton, so do the needs of it's residents - of all shapes, sizes and species.

In an effort to catch up with the growth of this program, we are asking anyone who has ever attended a vaccine clinic to fill out this survey. Please note, this survey is 100% ANONYMOUS. We are gathering  information that will help us when applying for grants to keep programs like this one going. If you have any questions or concerns. Please feel free to email us info@dentonasf.com. 

https://dentonasf.dm.networkforgood.com/forms/tacp-clinic

Cat Carrier Program - Support for the Shelter

The Denton Animal Support Foundation does everything we can to support the City of Denton Animal Shelter. For the past 7 years DASF has been providing the shelter with cardboard pet carriers, given free with cat adoptions.

A majority of cat adopters arrive at the shelter without any means to transport the pet safely to its new furrever home. Before DASF began providing the carriers, there were incidents of kittens being lost during transport and we want to continue providing safe transport for newly adopted pets! Over the years, adoption rates have increased substantially and the number of cats handled in the shelter has grown. The shelter uses about 1,700 carriers/year and we only see this number growing.

DASF is seeking underwriters for the Pet Carrier Program so that the shelter can continue to offer adopters safe transport for newly adopted cats. If you are interested in sponsoring this program, please contact us at info@dentonasf.com

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We would like to say thank you to Denton Veterinary Center for being the first to participate in our newest program and sponsoring cardboard cat carriers critically needed at the shelter!

Pictured: Dr. Randy Wuensche and Kelly Chaffer (with shelter staff)

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To support this and our many programs, please consider making a donation today.

Thanksgiving Pet Safety Tips

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Thanksgiving is right around the corner! It's a time for friends, family and holiday feasts—but also a time for possible distress for our animal companions. Pets won’t be so thankful if they munch on undercooked turkey or a pet-unfriendly floral arrangement, or if they stumble upon an unattended alcoholic drink.

In the spirit of attempting to prevent a Thanksgiving Day disaster in your home, check out the following tips and common exposures that you should watch out for during the week of Thanksgiving from the ASPCA and Pet Poison Helpline.

  • Turkey: If you decide to feed your pet a small bite of turkey, make sure it’s boneless and well-cooked. Don't offer her raw or undercooked turkey, which may contain salmonella bacteria. Do not give your pet the left over carcass–the bones can be problematic for the digestive tract.
  • No Bread Dough: Don't spoil your pet’s holiday by giving him access to raw yeast bread dough. When a dog or cat ingests raw bread dough, the yeast continues to convert the sugars in the dough to carbon dioxide gas and alcohol. This can result in bloated drunken pets, which could become a life-threatening emergency, requiring hospitalization.
  • Don't Let Them Eat Cake: If you plan to bake Thanksgiving desserts, be sure your pets keep their noses out of the batter, especially if it includes raw eggs—they could contain salmonella bacteria that may lead to food poisoning.
  • A Feast Fit for a King: While your family enjoys a special meal, give your cat and dog a small feast of their own. Offer them made-for-pets chew bones. Or stuff their usual dinner—perhaps with a few added tidbits of turkey, vegetables (try sweet potato or green beans) and dribbles of gravy—inside a food puzzle toy. They’ll be happily occupied for awhile, working hard to extract their dinner from the toy.
  • Fatty Foods such as butter, bacon, fatty meat drippings, gravies and meat scraps may seem harmless but can pose very real threats of pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas that can result in clinical signs of vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and abdominal pain. Some breeds, such as miniature Schnauzers are very prone to developing pancreatitis but all dogs ingesting a large enough quantity of these foods are at risk. Symptoms may not be immediate and can occur up to 4 days after exposure.
  • Discarded Food Items such as corn cobs, discarded turkey trussing’s, and bones can result in an obstructive risk or gastrointestinal injury that have the potential of requiring surgical removal or repair.
  • Turkey Brine: Who would have thought that the recently popular trend of brining your turkey prior to Thanksgiving would be a risk to your pets?! When you remove the turkey, this salt-saturated solution can be very attractive to dogs and cats, who will readily lap it up resulting in salt toxicosis. Clinical signs are excessive thirst and urination, vomiting and diarrhea. This can potentially result in serious electrolyte changes and brain swelling.
  • Xylitol: Candies, desserts or other foods that are sweetened with an artificial sweetener called xylitol are dangerous to pets. Xylitol can result in a rapid drop in blood sugar in dogs along with liver damage. In the past, we saw xylitol limited to the ingredient lists of sugar-free gums, mints, and dental products but xylitol is now very commonly used in sugar-free or low-sugar baked goods, vitamins and even peanut butter! Even quantities that appear to be very small have the potential to quickly become life-threatening to dogs. Always check the label!
  • Raisins, currents and grapes found in some of our favorite Thanksgiving foods are a very serious concern for dogs as they have the risk of resulting in acute renal failure with even small ingestions.
  • Chocolates in our desserts or treats are dangerous to our pets. Remember that the darker the chocolate, the more serious the ingestion, and the less they will need to ingest to develop clinical signs of vomiting, diarrhea, agitation, tremors, increased heart rate along with potential seizures.
  • Nuts are high in fat and have the risk of pancreatitis. Macadamia nuts are more serious and can ingestions can result in vomiting, diarrhea, inability to rise or walk normally (they take on a drunken appearance and can even drag their rear limbs as if injured), along  with
  • Holiday decorations are a concern for many reasons. The bouquet of lilies you received from your guests can result in acute renal failure in your cat. Bittersweet flowers are many times included in fall floral arrangements and can cause gastrointestinal upset. Candles can result in burns and flameless candles contain batteries, that when ingested can result in gastrointestinal burns and corrosive injury.

A few small boneless pieces of cooked turkey, a taste of mashed potato or even a lick of pumpkin pie shouldn’t pose a problem. However, don't allow your pets to overindulge, as they could wind up with a case of stomach upset, diarrhea or even worse—an inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis. In fact, it’s best keep pets on their regular diets during the holidays. Please visit the ASPCA's People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets page for more information.

For all pet emergency's please call your local veterinarian for assistance. If they are closed the Denton County Animal Emergency Room is open nights, weekend and holidays.

Animal Cruelty and Domestic Violence

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Abusers of animals are five times as likely to harm humans. According to the American Humane Association, upwards of 40% of domestic violence victims will not leave an abusive situation for fear that the abuser will hurt or kill a pet. Countless more never leave the home for this very reason. Companion animals, like cats and dogs, may be threatened or harmed; the vulnerability of other animals like horses may also make it difficult for victims to escape in emergencies. The “link” between violence against humans and animals is clear. But there are resources that can help.

Through our Safe Haven program, Denton Animal Support Foundation has partnered with the Denton County Friends of the Family and the City of Denton Police Department to enable victims of domestic violence to leave dangerous situations without leaving beloved pets behind. DASF has committed to paying for the boarding services of pets of domestic violence victims who seek shelter at the DCFOF facility.

To donate to DASF and help support this program, please click here.

Understanding the Cycle of Violence

After a violent episode, whether physical, emotional, or sexual, tension builds to a breaking point. The abuser blames the victim and minimizes the violence, then woos the victim back in a honeymoon phase, and the victim hopes the cycle is over. But the cycle repeats itself, almost without fail.

Many victims hope the violence will end or believe they can protect animals in the home. The truth is that a person who harms animals will likely harm humans–and a person who harms humans will almost certainly harm animals. Staying with an abuser puts every human and nonhuman in the home at risk.

Children in violent households, who have likely been abused themselves, represent one-fifth of domestic animal cruelty cases. When a child harms animals it can indicate that serious abuse has been inflicted on the child; consequently, animals are abused in nearly all households in which children have been abused. Furthermore, children who witness animal abuse are at greater risk of becoming abusers. Many violent offenders committed childhood acts of animal abuse.

Silence and Domestic Violence

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), domestic violence comes in many forms, including physical, sexual, and emotional violence, and threats. Killing, harming, or threatening to harm animals are weapons used by abusers to manipulate victims into silence and to destroy the comfort animals provide. Abuse is not a problem with anger management, but rather a way to establish and maintain control over victims.

Protecting victims of domestic violence will help protect animals too. Experts agree that statistics about abuse, while disturbing, probably downplay the true magnitude of domestic violence. To fight the silence that hides domestic violence, the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) helped establish the National Domestic Violence Hotline and exponentially increased the reporting of domestic violence. In February, 2013 Congress passed reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.  Without better laws, domestic abusers–who have up to an 80% rate of recidivism–will almost certainly repeat their crimes.

An Undeniable Link

Animal abuse is often the first visible sign a family is in trouble.

  • Many victims entering shelters report that their abuser has hurt, killed, or threatened family animals. About a third report their children have harmed animals.
  • Victims often admit an animal is being abused before they admit their own suffering.
  • Animal cruelty investigations frequently unravel chronic domestic abuse.

How the Law Can Help

Legal remedies include improving the ability of domestic violence shelters to coordinate the protection of animals. Laws that put custody of companion animals directly into legal “protection orders” allow judges to help human and animal victims. Establishing ownership of animals can be difficult and often requires legal assistance. Many communities have services that provide free legal advice in this area.

Felony penalties for animal cruelty allow prosecutors to better prosecute offenders, because, sadly, most domestic violence cases are only prosecuted at the misdemeanor level. Redefining the legal definition of domestic violence to include animal cruelty can make a difference. As a step toward this, some states have addressed animal abuse committed in the presence of children. Oregon is one such state; ORS 167.320 makes animal abuse a felony if committed in the presence of a minor child. Under this statute, prior domestic violence convictions against a human victim count as prior to trigger the felony clause.

Cross-reporting Is Key

Cross-reporting requires law enforcement and social agencies to report abuse and collaborate in investigations – in some states animal protection agencies must also report suspected child abuse, and child protective services must also report suspected animal cruelty. States like New York and New Mexico are considering such laws. California (SB 1264) and Virginia (HB 74 and SB 239) recently enacted laws that impact reporting by animal control officers and veterinarians who suspect child abuse. There is some debate, however, about whether mandatory reporting laws can be enforced properly.

What You Can Do

Have a Plan. If you or someone you love is in a dangerous situation, have an escape and emergency plan for both human and animal victims. Ask your domestic violence shelter or national hotline for tips on forming an escape plan. Organizations like Georgia-based Ahimsa House can offer advice in preparation and planning, especially for individuals with non-traditional companion animals like horses, chickens, goats, sheep, that are more difficult to transport in emergencies. Do NOT leave animals with the abuser.

Seek Shelter. If family and friends aren’t options, contact local shelters and ask for information about sheltering companion animals. Many shelters have temporary “safe haven” foster programs.

Seek Legal Advice. One of the smartest things victims can do to empower themselves is to get educated. Many local shelters and social services offer free legal advocates who provide crucial resources, assistance filing protective orders, and support in prosecutions. Contact your local shelter, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network hotline, or the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Advocate. Encourage women’s shelters to add questions about animals to intake forms, and to build animal kennels at their facilities. Encourage animal shelters to adopt temporary foster programs. Help victims establish ownership of companion animals and retrieve animals left behind. Establish community groups against domestic violence that includes local animal groups.

Support the Victims. Because the rules of evidence have been so skewed to favor the defendant (at the expense of victim safety) victims need to be present in the courtroom at trial. This is often a time of great anxiety and stress; providing a victim with the support necessary to get to court, testify truthfully while looking the abuser in the eye, is vital to ensuring offenders are held accountable. On average, a victim attempts to leave an abusive situation up to seven times before getting out for good. With support, legal assistance, and safe shelter, victims can escape violence.

More Information

This blog is an adaptaion of an article written by Animal Legal Defense Fund