Friday, August 14, 2009

A very serious subject

I was very pleased to see this news article in my in-box:

Tough Abuse Law Makes Detectives of Animal Officers

"The initial impetus for the training came in 2007 when the legislature created the crime of domestic violence animal cruelty. Because of that law, killing a pet or other animal to intimidate or terrorize a family member or partner became a felony, punishable by up to three years in prison.

“One of the best ways to control people is to control the things they love,” Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards said."

The Case of the Battered Pet - excellent article about this widespread problem.

I am a fan of true crime novels and one of the things that always freaks me out are descriptions of how an abusive spouse threatened or killed a woman's pet, or attempted to do so. I just read one in which a man dumped an ancient, indoor-only kitty on the street to get back at a woman for leaving him. (The kitty was recovered safely - the woman was not so lucky and was eventually murdered by this man) I know this is a very common pattern, and a refusal to leave pets often keeps women in dangerous situations far too long.

Horses are a particular problem. Let's say your husband or significant other has control of all of the finances. You don't have access to a thing, and you've been a stay at home mom, or just stay at home because he said he was "old fashioned" and preferred you stay home (translation: god forbid you leave the house and talk to other men or independent women). Now it's not just about you trying to come up with enough money to make a fresh start for yourself (rent and deposit, maybe a vehicle if you don't own one so that you can look for work), but now you're looking at horses that need a place to live and care that will be three times the cost if you can't keep them at home. Coming up with the couple of thousand dollars, minimum, necessary to move yourself and horses is no picnic for a woman in this situation. And implementing such a move isn't so easy either. Arranging to have horses and all your equipment loaded and moved isn't as easy as you and the kids turning the other direction and not coming home from the grocery store one day.

So what kind of help is out there for a woman in this situation? Some municipalities are on top of this problem! Check out the Annapolis, Maryland Animal Control's page about foster care for pets and livestock. The American Humane Society offers guidelines for starting a PAWS program to shelter pets in connection with domestic violence shelters in your area. Here is some information about which states allow animals to be included in restraining orders. If your state isn't one of them, start writing your legislators!

What if you want to help? One page I found makes these recommendations (warning: many horrible stories you may wish you hadn't read if you follow that link):

  • Encourage victims you may know to contact victim advocates or a domestic violence hotline to learn of resources in their community for themselves, their family and their pets.
  • Work with legislators to insure that pets can be included in orders of protection and help educate judges about the necessity to do so.
  • Work with your local humane organizations or animal control to support the establishment of programs for the emergency housing of pets coming from homes experiencing violence.
  • Victim advocates can work with victims to be sure they include pets in their safety planning and include questions about any threats or injuries to pets on intake questionnaires.
I'd note that this is a great thing to get involved with if you want to do something that helps horses and people.

What if you're the one in this situation? The first thing I want to say is that no one should feel ashamed. Pretty much everybody has been with the Wrong Person, just different varieties of Wrong. Just about nobody leaves when they should. It's just a fact. The process of breaking free from the Wrong Person takes time and I think I've read that most women leave a physically abusive partner seven times before they make it stick. OK, but you know what? The first time, get the animals out. If there's any way in the world to do it, get the animals out and keep them out and don't let him know where they are. Tell your close friends the truth - I'll bet one of them will help you with the animals. If he's already isolated you so you don't have close friends, call your local domestic violence shelter and ask them for guidance. Remember, they talk to women in this situation all day - they are not going to judge you. You don't even have to give your real name to get information. And information is all over the Internet (use library computers - your home one may have a keylogger already installed if your SO is jealous and controlling). You won't know - it doesn't show up in your installed programs, so be careful.

It's really pretty simple - even if you want to give him another chance, ask yourself if your animal would make that same choice, or if he/she could speak, would they ask to get the hell out of there? I hope you go with them, but if you just can't yet, get them out - they're innocent and it is your duty to protect them.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233. You can always call them!

So today I want to hear from both sides. E-mail me. Have you helped someone in a domestic violence situation get their pets to safety? Have you yourself escaped from such a situation with your animals? How did you do it? What tips would you give others? Are you in a bad situation or a deteriorating situation now, and need help or advice? Unless you sign a screen name to the end of the content in your e-mail, you are 100% anonymous here so feel free to speak freely, and if you need help, I'll do my best to find someone in your area who can lend a hand.

Today's Friday Featured Rescue is a beautiful six year old Thoroughbred mare who almost lost her life to an irresponsible owner. She was down to a 1 on the Henneke Scale when she was seized by Animal Control and brought to Days End Horse Rescue in Woodbine, Maryland.

As you see, she has fully recovered! Javie is riding very well and has been out on the trails. You can learn more about her and see video on this page. (And check out their before & after pics for some amazing transformations - HUGE KUDOS!)

Have a great weekend everybody and hey, I got all of the comments up (at least as of this morning!)


"In the case of Julie Ramage's murder by her husband in Australia, witnesses
said that Julie had more than once expressed fear that her husband would
hurt her horses as part of his controlling behaviour.

Their daughter Samantha, now 17, told the Supreme Court: "She was worried he
might be angry. That he would do something to try to hurt her, like kill
(her) horses or steal the horse float or control the money... or maybe be
violent towards myself or her."

News Article"

"This just happened not even a week ago here. And the guy did exactly what was described in those articles you posted, threatening to kill or injure her horses, murder her, everyone around her. He got arrested multiple times, nothing came of it. He broke the restraining order several times and was never penalized. Now two women are dead. News Article"

"I'm so glad the connection between animal abuse and violence against people is being recognized in domestic violence cases. It is so sad this exists, but hopefully this legislation will make it possible for women to get needed help, and get away from abusive partners. Locking those &%@# up is a good start...

So many people have no idea how prevalent abuse against women is. Back when I had a desk job (about 14 years ago?), I had a standing lunch date with about a dozen female co-workers. During one of our lunches the topic of spousal abuse came up, I think because one of the women had gotten out of an abusive relationship and had finally recovered to the point she could talk about it over Crab Legs. She went to the battered womens shelter after she got beaten so badly she ended up in the hospital, but her motivation for leaving seemed to be more to protect her newborn baby than herself. Enough time had passed that she could talk about it. I found the whole thing baffling, and said so. I mean, what sane, self-respecting woman, would let herself get into an abusive relationship.

Then one of the ladies at the table got a funny smile on her face and asked for a show of hands of how many of the women at the table had been the victim of an abusive partner. EIGHT HANDS WENT UP! Out of a dozen women. That is 66%!! These were all intelligent, educated, attractive, competent professional women. I was astounded. For some reason I had thought battered women were ugly, or stupid, or high-school dropouts, or druggies, or on the fringes of society. I was shocked to discover that is not the case, that these women I knew and counted as friends had been through that horror.

I think we women tend to sell ourselves short. We want a relationship long before the men our age are ready for one. We see their evasion as a rejection, or a sign we are inferior. Guess what: we're great, but they're not deserving. At least not yet. And they know it. Those with sense avoid committed relationships when they are not yet ready to settle down and support a family. The ones without sense get into relationships, but they know they're not deserving, so they try to hide that fact through manipulation and abuse. OK, just a theory, and possibly way off. When I say "young" and "undeserving" keep in mind that some men never mature emotionally, and some never accomplish enough useful work to justify the oxygen they are consuming, so this is not necessarily a function of age. I think we all know men like this, and they've all managed somehow to get some poor woman to have a relationship with them.

Too many women also tend to have few or no goals beyond getting married and having babies. How to protect yourself? Plan to do the marriage and babies thing after you pass age 25, by which time you will have a 4-year degree and an established career of some kind. Make education and self-reliance your goal; once that is established, go shopping for a husband (if a marriage and family are something you want to do). But first, make a list of requirement to compare any prospect partner to. If he isn't qualified, you'll save yourself the hassle of getting involved with someone who isn't suitable, and then having to break up with him, and all the stuff that happens in the middle. And you'll be available when the right one does show up.

Too many women will get connected with any guy who shows interest. They'll jump into bed with someone they barely know, then try to hold onto the "relationship". Except it really isn't a relationship, it's a guy who's getting the milk for free, and may get nasty if you try to make him pay for it, or if you take it away.

How to stay out of abusive relationships: Make a list of requirements, and figure out whether a guy is qualified on the first date, which is an interview, right? One of the requirements should be "good with children and pets". You can learn a lot about this in conversation, or observing him at family gatherings or with animals. His responses when you talk about family, children, and animals can be very revealing. It really doesn't matter if you don't plan to have children or pets, the point is that if he is weird or abusive with animals or kids (or talk about kids or animals in a way that indicates a lack of affection or empathy) that is a sign he will get weird or abusive with you if you get involved with him. At the first sign of weirdness or abuse, dump him.

Pretty much all of the abused women I've known made excuses for their partner's weird and abusive behavior, and refused to acknowledge the danger they were in. In pretty much every case they didn't leave until someone else figured out what was going on and led them through the process of leaving. I suppose it is hard to admit you made a huge mistake, and leaving is seen as an admission of failure. And of course the abusive partner has been working on the poor woman, gradually conditioning her to accept and tolerate increasingly more violent and abusive behavior.

I suppose the message here is to watch your friends for signs of abuse and help them get out if they are in an abusive situation. They won't be able to do it on their own, but with your help they can do it, and they can recover their sense of self-worth.


FHOTD in: I also think a lot of these guys are great actors. You will not see the warning signs - they can hide it all until you're married to or living with them. At the very least, checking for a criminal history of violence on a new guy can help you avoid a very bad situation.

"Please remember all state laws are not created equal,check the animal welfare statutes for your particular state and,by all means if you wish to assist,go to your county sheriffs office or govt. center and speak to the good people with Victim Services. This is a good place to start,and can create wonderful working relationships between rescues and advocacy groups. MHARF did this 12 years ago with excellent results. THE LINK (the link between human violence and animal cruelty) is taught as a part of all Animal control/Humane investigator trainings that offer law enforcement credits. For more info check with your states Animal Control Assn. or the National Animal Control Assn..If you know the resources available in your area you are on your way to gaining control of your own situation or being able to help someone gain control of theirs. - Drew"

"This happened to a friend of mine. Her Fucking scum husband took control of her foal and intentionally overfed it so that when she dumped him she had to deal with correcting a flexural deformity Thank God it was one that Oxytet could resolve. Unbelievable. The best news is the foal is fine and sold to a show home and doing well and my friend divorced and now has a very supportive new spouse who loves her and her horses (despite being a non-rider), and he has become a major show grounds manager that is very sought after in the process (follows the circuit, winters in FL, etc).

Ok sigh - I love a happy ending, even if vicarious."

FHOTD in: To your friend: YOU GO, GIRL! :-)

"Actually my mom was a victim if this situation in late April. She was employed at a business owned by the terrible man himself, so after leaving she had no job. We had later found out that he also didn't register her as an "employee" at the business, so records show she was unemployed for 24 years. So after leaving getting a job (especially in this economy) was darn near impossible for her.

How did we do it? We had to plan EVERYTHING out ahead of time. The day before we left we had all the clothes we wanted to keep in trash bags in our closets, hiding under some blankets. We had called a local stable to help us trailer our horses away, called people to help us move our furniture quickly, everything had to be planned out in an inconspicuous manner. Every Thursday the "Wrong person" would go to Tennessee in pursuit of his song writing career (which was making us go GREATLY in debt, but he was doing all sorts of nasty schemes to get more money).. He would be gone for a good 5 or 6 hours. So one so one Thursday we just up and left. My mustang, which I had just bought maybe two weeks prior (we didn't know we were going to be leaving otherwise I probably wouldn't have made the purchase, an event in those two weeks happened that was the "last straw") was NOT ready to be trailered. So he really wasted a lot of time. So that's another thing, make SURE that all your horses are easy to trailer, tie, and have respectful ground manners!

A stable gave us a discount for the situation (their regular boarding fee was $200 a month per horse on minimum pasture care). They gave us a field for $100 a horse. That was nice of them, but with four horses we were still in a VERY tight pinch. (especially since no where would hire my mom). We looked and looked and finally we found a nice, 4-H parent that had an extra barn on a property they weren't using. It had a poor pasture and a barn filled with garbage, but if we agreed to fix it up and clean it out ourselves we could use it for just $50 a month. (for all the horses, not per horse). We gladly took the offer!

The dogs are staying with various people that go to our church until we can afford a place that allows dogs. Our dogs weren't near as much trouble when we left as the horses were.

So the main things I can stress is 1) Prep your horses! Trailer loading, ground manners, everything!
2) Prep your stuff (without being obvious!). Saddles in their bags, horse food in storage containers, ready to go!
3) Plan this out thoroughly in advanced. When is a time that he WILL NOT be home for a good amount of time? Who is doing the trailering? Where are you going? (we stayed at a local domestic violence shelter). call them and plan everything! Use your cell for these calls (you don't want them to call back on the home phone), and erase all the records of calls and text messages.

I think having the ability to put the pets in the restraining order is a BRILLIANT idea. There have been a few instances my dad has shot at our horses with a BB gun. Shot and killed our chickens. Kicked the tar out of our dogs. Did they do anything to deserve it? Of course not. It was displaced feelings onto things we loved.

Thanks for doing this post. I really like reading it, and I think that it is very correct. Good luck to all who are planning to leave the "wrong guy". Don't let any of these difficulties hold you back. Its more important to get OUT."

FHOTD in: This is a GREAT post about how to plan an exit as safely as possible, from someone who has recently been there. I hope it helps someone else. Thank you for sharing! I hope that you are all fortunate enough to NEVER see him again.

"GOD BLESS YOU for this wonderful, heartfelt blog. I am sure that you saved the lives of many women and their pets.
Keeping you all in my thoughts and prayers!"

"THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for the wonderful post, fugly! I've
lectured and researched about the connection between domestic violence
and animal abuse FOR YEARS and it only seems like recently that the
legislators are starting to tune in. I agree with everything you've

I'm not a horse owner, but I am an animal lover. I love your site.
Please keep up the good work!"

"Just a quick comment, having been there and done that. I was in an abusive relationship with my first husband – no contact with family, his or mine, not allowed to have friends, only allowed to go certain places with him, etc… When we met, I was in college for horses. After graduation, we married and suddenly I was not allowed to have anything to do with horses. Since we lived in the city, I assumed the ultimatum had something to do with having no space for one. We had a dog (I still have him 10 years later), and one hot summer day I was in the back of the house cleaning when the dog came into the room I was in with his mouth duct taped shut. I asked hubby why, and he said “the dog was panting too loud”. Verbal abuse escalated quickly and physical violence came soon after, and I left. I called my family – who I had not contacted in over a year – and a lawyer and got out 9 days later. My parents drove into town and got a U-haul, spent the night at a motel, and as soon as he left for work, they pulled in the drive, we threw everything in boxes, loaded the dog and myself in the car and got out of town. He called and emailed my family, threatening to kill us all and demanding the dog back. Needless to say, the judge didn’t find that in good favor and granted the divorce with restraining orders. 10 years later, I have a new hubby, two horses, a horse job, kids and daily contact with family and friends – everything hubby #1 never let me have. Point being…. It is VERY hard to do, because they make you think you are worthless and that they will hurt the only important thing to you, but if that thing, be it a child or animal, is truly important to you, then it is your responsibility to remove it and yourself from such a horrible situation before they or you get hurt. I wish anyone in such a situation much luck and strength."

FHOTD in: Again, thanks for sharing your story! I know it is so helpful for women to read success stories like yours.

"Because I feel this needs to be brought up, and it seldom is.

Not all victims of domestic violence are women. Domestic violence between gay men is not uncommon and I have personally known two straight men who were victims of spousal abuse (It's rare...women are more likely to abuse their partners emotionally and verbally rather than physically, but it does happen.

It is particularly difficult for a heterosexual male to seek assistance and get out of the relationship, because who wants to admit his wife or girlfriend is beating him up?

And it is not that easy to leave.

I personally knew somebody who tried and failed. I doubt I need to say more.

Kudos for bringing up the fact that pets, as well as children, can be caught in the middle of this crap."

FHOTD in: Good point. A man may feel even more embarrassed about coming forward, and you're right - leaving is hard no matter what. Even if the person is not so controlling that you can hardly pack a suitcase, many people in these relationships are also dealing with family pressure to "keep the family together" and "stay for the kids" and other nonsense. There are a lot of reasons it is hard to leave.

"I have been in this position myself. I was involved in a very abusive marriage and he was the controlling type. I was not allowed to have a job nor was I allowed to touch any of the money that he made. He did allow me to have 1 horse. Well I finally got sick of it and decided that it was time to get out of there. The only thing that I had in my favor was that I was boarding my horse. But I also had a dog and a cat that I loved as much as my kids. I talked to my BO who was very understanding and let me keep my horse at her place for free for a few months. She also took in my dog and my cat for me. I went to a womens shelter in the Akron, Ohio area while I went thru the divorce proceedings and got a restraining order. When I went to court to get the restraining order they included that he was not permitted to be at the barn that my horse was in.

Then I got myself on my feet graduated college, while raising 3 kids, got myself a good job. The kids have not heard from him in well over 10 years and to be honest I could care less.

I know that if I know of someone that is in the same position that i was in around me I know that I will be more than willing to take the horses and keep them at my house (as soon as we get moved in our new house it has enough land), cause if it wasn't for someone doing that for me Lord know where I would be today."

FHOTD in: I'm really glad to hear so many success stories today! Thank you for sharing yours.

"One of the best topics yet. I bet that this post really hits home for some women and thank you for putting out the info on the keylogging. I was (am) the "trusted friend" of someone in a domestic violence situation. Its very hard because you have to maintain boundaries for yourself for your own protection and also because you don't want to do everything for the woman. It sounds mean but if she doesn't do most of the work herself (filing reports, talking to the DV counselor, etc), or on her own initiative, then you are really not any more helpful than the controlling "other" she is leaving. (Believe me I wanted nothing more than to drag her by the scruff to the local ER so they could document her nearly-crushed trachea) But you also have to be a rock because her whole world is falling apart and she has been isolated from all her supports (family and friends) for a very long time. She doesn't remember how to think independently or make decisions, and also she is starting to accept that she could die violently, which is mind numbing especially when its by someone you thought was your best friend.

Anyway my friend was keylogged and the day she decided to leave him he was waiting in the house when he said he was at work. He had already strangled her several times and he was going to kill her that day, I have no doubt. As part of my boundaries, I had said I will help you move out as long as there is a police presence when we are at your house. And she agreed! We met the police (2 big burly motherfuckers, how refreshing) at the grocery store parking lot and then drove to her house where her husband was waiting. He was absolutely floored that there were cops (that part we had not discussed in email). We had about an hour of frantically cramming all we could find that belonged to her into garbage bags before he became so argumentative that the cops suggested we leave. They had 4 dogs at the house, and he wouldn't "let" her take any of them. Then, as we were getting in our cars, he decided to "give her" the special needs dog. The police said they could not help split up the dogs or remove all the pets and she could only take what he didn't contest. It doesn't seem fair that the criminals have the rights but...well they do. He eventually "let" her have the other dog, but he strung it out for awhile trying to use the dog as a way to control her. This all happened in November. She has not gone back (and finally I am confident that she won't), the restraining order is still in effect, she's trying to get divorced but of course he drags his feet at every opportunity so its taking forever. She used the dogs as an excuse to stay for a very long time. He was mean to the dogs to get to her too, sometimes picking them up by the neck like he did with her.

As a side note, one of the first things we did was take a Rape Aggression Defense class offered through a local university. It's free, empowering, and for women only. Link

She already feels better because she got to practice getting out of a strangle-hold and now she's considering getting trained in firearms. It's like there were holes in her brain and now they are filling back in with normal human thoughts. Well...almost normal anyway. I went to a DV support group with her, it blew my mind what some women will go back to; I know the cycle and the 'reasons' but ...jesus. Some women are set on fire and still go back. Set on fire!!

Thank you again for this topic. It will help someone, I'm sure of that. Feel free to post any of this except for my email, of course. And keep up the amazing blog! lol I hope you run for president. :)"

FHOTD in: Great, set on fire. I can't imagine anything more horrible.

"One difficulty with some of the laws is that they pertain to "pets". Horses may be considered "livestock" and "valuable assets". It is not enough to have a law that protects pets - it must also include horses!"

FHOTD in: Agreed! Really, it should include livestock. I know plenty of women who could be manipulated by someone threatening their goat or chickens or whatever.

"Hi Cathy, Great post. This one hits very close to home for me. Several years ago I was in a failing marriage to a total control freak (he would get very angry over things like vacuuming in the "wrong" direction, making peanut butter cookies instead of chocolate chip or folding the laundry wrong). There were so many huge red flags, I should've left a thousand times. I tried to one night but he caught up with me (I was on foot, didn't have a car, isolated from friends... the whole lot) and that was the first time it ever got physical. I won't go into too much more detail but by the time I was out of there I had a broken foot and he had killed our pet skunk. Her name was Squirt and she was just a few months old. I found her abandoned and bottle raised her, she was the brightest part of my life while I was with him. My advice is if you have even the slightest hint of a thought to leave... GET OUT NOW. If it turns out that you were wrong about him, nothing is truly lost but time, but what if that little voice in your head is right??? There are plenty of fish in the sea and even if you never catch another, it sure as hell beats the alternative...


PS- I would be happy to talk to anyone wanting advice or in need of an ear of someone who has been there."

FHOTD in: E-mail me with KT in the subject line if you want your e-mail forwarded to her. And KT, thanks for the offer.