The importance of considering the treatment and care of family pets in domestic violence risk assessments
A significant part of the health visiting role is to work with families where there is domestic violence. Pets are often regarded as members of the family and as such are additional victims in environments where domestic violence is perpetrated. This paper explores the co-existence of domestic violence and animal cruelty and the implications of the use of animal cruelty to exercise coercive control over intimate partners in terms of the dangerousness of the abuser. It also considers the impact of animal cruelty on the health and social and emotional development of children. In domestic violence situations, child safety should be held paramount and adult safety a priority; the authors argue that in the pursuit of the best outcomes for children and adults, health visitors should be cognisant of the treatment and care of family pets in their assessment and in planning interventions to support families in changing their situation. An overview is provided of the domestic violence risk assessment tools that refer to animal cruelty as a contributory factor for serious harm and the animal welfare services available to help families escaping domestic violence.
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