STOCKTON - A sexual abuse victim once crafted a T-shirt naming the
pets she loved as a child: Red, Honey, Dusty, Choo Choo, Brandy, Babe,
Thumper, Candy and Tweetie.
Her father threatened to slaughter the dogs and cats if the girl ever
gave up their secret.
She didn't. And he killed them anyway, one by one as she grew up, said
Joelle Gomez of the Women's Center of San Joaquin County, where the
victim - now in her mid-40s - sought help years ago.
The link between animal cruelty and domestic abuse is neither new nor
unusual, experts say. But it's spotlighted this month in a proposed
law that would include pets in protective court orders.
"Just like batterers have put threats and control over their spouses
or girlfriends or children, they use pets as another pawn in it all,"
Gomez said. "There's some really sick ways that a batterer could use
animal cruelty to keep a person submissive."
Experts say animal abuse is sometimes a sign of trouble to come.
The bill introduced by state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, in
late February would allow courts to order batterers to stay away from
victims and their pets. This could encourage women to leave abusive
homes and take pets with them. Gomez said her staff is seeking
agreements with animal shelters to temporarily house pets while
domestic violence victims seek help.
Similar laws are being considered in a number of states, with support
from domestic violence victims' advocates and humane societies.
"We don't want the pet to be the deciding factor for that woman" to
stay in a bad situation, Gomez said.