Last updated: 26.09.17

Virtual College helps understanding of animal welfare in violent homes

Virtual College has worked with The Links Group to develop a free online course and resource pack to help improve the ‘Understanding Animal Welfare in Violent Homes.’ This is as a result of significant research findings which show that “When animals are abused, people are at risk; when people are abused animals are at risk.”

Millions of people in the UK are thought to be at risk of abuse in the home each year2, and with 51% of households containing a pet3, research shows that there is also a risk to animals in violent homes. In the U.S., 71% of pet-owning women entering women’s shelters reported that their abuser had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge.

Animal abuse can be challenging to recognise, even for vets, but often seeing the animal in a home environment where there is interpersonal violence, has led some human healthcare professionals to question the wellbeing of the animal, even if there are no obvious injuries.

To create the free online course, Virtual College worked in partnership with The Links Group, a multi-agency interest group that promotes the welfare and safety of vulnerable children, animals and adults so that they are free from violence and abuse.

The course has been designed to help frontline staff understand the link between family abuse and animal abuse, and is aimed at all professionals who have a responsibility to safeguard vulnerable children, young people and adults at risk.

Co-author of the course, Vicki Betton, works for veterinary charity PDSA and is an officer of The Links Group.

She says, “The veterinary profession is now familiar with the concept of the ‘battered pet’, and recognises that there are sometimes interrelationships commonly known as ‘links’.

“This course uses our animal welfare expertise to help human healthcare colleagues to recognise potential concerns about pets in the homes they visit, even if the pet is not being directly harmed.

“By undertaking the course, human healthcare professionals will have a better understanding of animal wellbeing and will know where to seek advice if they suspect there is an issue.”

The course is particularly appropriate to child protection services, health professionals, police officers, teachers and education experts, children’s social care, adult social care and housing authorities.

The course has been written to provide a basic understanding of what animal abuse is, how to spot the signs, as well as to understand the recognised link between family abuse and animal abuse, and understand what to do if you have suspicions of abuse.

To register for the free training, click: here.

1. From ‘Understanding the Link between Violence to People and Violence to Animals’ by the American Humane Association.
3. 2017 PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report
4. Ascione, F.R., Weber, C. V. & Wood, D. S. (1997). The abuse of animals and domestic violence: A national survey of shelters for women who are battered. Society & Animals 5(3), 205-218

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