Abuse of any species should be our concern


One of the things that kept Alice (not real name) living for so long in the same house as her violently abusive husband (now ex) was the fear of what would happen to her beloved pets if she left.

On one occasion when she had gathered the courage to leave with the children and seek refuge at a friend’s home, he called at 2 am to say that he had shot her dog. The devastated woman called her neighbour’s home to enquire about her dog’s condition, only to discover that her husband had been bluffing.

She returned home subsequently.

Her husband’s follow-up actions were not bluffs...picking up one of the dogs by the collar and body-slamming him onto the ground in front of Alice and her young children, throwing her kitten forcefully against a wall, after which the animal ran off and was never seen again were just some of the many violations.

“To say that we felt helpless and terrified was an understatement,” Alice recounted.

The day after the kitten-slamming incident, she took the children and left for good, sadly without their dog, which she was unable to carry to the emergency "no pets allowed" accommodation not far from her former "home." Proximity allowed her to check up on her beloved canine quite often, as her husband was away for long periods, often leaving him without food. She would sneak in, play with and feed him, until (much to her husband’s fury) the day came when she was able to remove the dog from his care (or lack thereof) and give him to a friend, who fostered him for a few years until she was finally in a position (accommodation-wise) to have him living with her again.

While the following statistics (highlighted on an "I Heart Dogs" webpage) are international, they point to what must also be an unfortunate reality for some (perhaps many?) victims of domestic abuse in Trinidad and Tobago: “47 per cent of domestic-violence victims won’t leave an abusive relationship because they can’t take their pets.”

The statement goes on to say that 90 per cent of domestic violence shelters cannot accept (or do not allow) pets, thereby forcing survivors to leave their beloved animal companions behind, when they flee for safety.


In TT (given our generally low animal-welfare standards and low acceptance of animals in indoor settings), perhaps no domestic violence shelter allows pets. Many apartments up for rent state “no pets allowed” and those that do allow them may not be affordable to victims with very little or no finances.

The SAF-T (Sheltering Animals & Families Together) site lists a number of pet-friendly domestic violence shelters around the world. These shelters are required to welcome service animals, family pets and emotional support animals. Not surprisingly, TT is not on their list.

Sites such as "A Safe Place for Pets" lists safe international off-site housing options for people who have found refuge in domestic violence shelters that do not allow pets. As far as I know, TT has no such safe house for pets needing urgent relocation from violent homes. Given the alarming number of savage (often fatal) domestic violence cases in TT, some humane, enterprising individual would do well to set up a "shelter" specifically for the pets of domestic violence victims who have fled from home.

Animal abuse is disturbingly common in TT and sadly, can be an indicator of violence against a spouse or child(ren) in the home. Local police need to treat reports of both animal and human abuse with great urgency and seriousness.

According to Alice, quite often when a woman leaves an abuser, the pet becomes the next victim – often fatally so, when the heightened anger erupting in the aftermath of the victim’s escape is redirected at the helpless, vulnerable creature.

It is not uncommon to see social media posts written by women desperately seeking homes for their pets. For Alice, such requests are a reminder of her past, alerting her to the possibility that some of these women could be victims who, before their escape, are urgently seeking safe homes for their animals.

“Many abusers use violence towards pets to keep their victims in line or punish them,” Alice said.

Spurred by Alice’s perspective, I urge animal-loving victims of domestic violence to contact any of the animal rescue/welfare NGOs in TT for assistance and guidance if you are concerned about the safety of your pet(s) while planning your life-saving escape.


"Abuse of any species should be our concern"

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