Today (26 August) is International Dog Day, a day for celebrating one of our nation’s favourite pets.
But sadly for people in abusive relationships, pets, including dogs, are often used by perpetrators as a tool to control their victims, with many ‘pet parents’ feeling forced to stay with their abusive partner because they don’t want to leave their dog behind.
Dogs are often threatened, shouted at, beaten, kicked and even killed by perpetrators in order to intimidate their partner. In some cases, people report their abuser got jealous of the attention they showed their dog or use issues surrounding their pet to start an argument. But these aren’t the only ways dogs are used to control victims, as Zak* found out when he left his abusive wife, Olivia*.
Zak had bought the 10-week-old Jack Russell puppy, Bailey, with his wife and he was an intelligent, laid back, loving dog, who enjoyed being outside and walking.
Zak recalls how the dog would react when his wife was being abusive: “Bailey would bark at her to tell her to stop. He’s a laid back so that says even he realised what was happening was wrong.” Olivia would then grab the dog and lock him in a room. As soon as the abuse was over, Zak would go to the dog and lock themselves in to keep away from his wife.
One night, Zak decided he had had enough. He called his daughter and went to her house with the dog, leaving his son in law and the police to sort things out at home. His wife decided she was going to leave their home and packed her things and left.
Soon after, Zak contacted the vets because Bailey was due his next lot of jabs. He then found out that his wife had cancelled their pet plan and as the dog was registered in her name, she refused to give permission for the dog to be vaccinated. Zak had to get his solicitors involved and says that his wife then purposely used Bailey as a tool to keep controlling him even after their relationship had ended.
When Olivia decided to come and collect the rest of the things in their home, a time and day was agreed. Zak asked his son in law to let her in and he did not want to be home when she arrived. 45 minutes before the agreed time, Zak was getting to leave when his wife turned up with two other people. They tried to intimidate Zak and grab the dog off him before he locked himself and Bailey in the house and called his son in law.
More recently, Bailey developed a muscular disease his back legs. Zak told us; “I realised as he was registered at the vets in my wife’s name all the receipts were being mailed to her.” After discussing his situation with the vets, they agreed to register Bailey twice: “if something dire happens to Bailey, then she will have to be in agreement to the course of treatment unless they receive a court order to the contrary. I have spoken to my solicitor about this and he will deal with this as part of the divorce.”