The Link Report

In order to learn more about the impact of violence on both animals and people, the Saskatchewan SPCA recently undertook a research study in partnership with STOPS to Violence and PATHS Saskatchewan.

The Link:  Interpersonal Violence and Abuse and Animal Safekeeping was undertaken as a way to answer to questions:

  1. Is the concern for the safety of companion animals and livestock a barrier to individuals leaving situations of interpersonal violence and abuse in Saskatchewan?

  2. Are there existing networks and supports in Saskatchewan that provide safekeeping of animals for individuals leaving situations of interpersonal violence and abuse?


Participants in the study included both human service agencies and animal welfare organizations in Saskatchewan.

  • 92% of human service workers taking part in the study agreed that the care and safekeeping of animals can impact planning and decision making for individuals leaving abusive relationships.

  • 77.55% of respondents from the human services sector indicated awareness of someone who did not leave an abusive relationship due to concern for the care and safekeeping of animals.

  • 65% of human service agencies had received requests to help with the temporary safekeeping of animals.


Survey participants noted the many challenges faced by women who own pets or livestock when leaving situations of interpersonal violence. The study revealed that animals can be used to threaten, intimidate, and silence the victims of abuse in situations involving family violence.

Recommendations From the Report

Based on the information gathered, a list of recommendations was created:

  • Develop education and training workshops regarding the connection between interpersonal violence and abuse and concern for animal safekeeping to human service organizations, animal welfare agencies, and the general public.

  • Establish partnerships between animal welfare agencies and human service organizations to better provide services.

  • Provide information about services available for both animal welfare and human service providers in urban and rural areas.

  • Train service providers in supporting individuals to plan for animal safekeeping when leaving situations of violence and abuse.

  • Create a list of resources and services for animal care and safekeeping currently offered within Saskatchewan (e.g., develop a resource book, provincial registry).

  • Among domestic violence services, ensure that the intake process involves asking whether or not animal abuse is occurring/has occurred within the home.

  • Formulate policies among animal welfare and human service organizations, to ensure a clear understanding of what each sector is responsible for. Establishing guidelines will remove ambiguity that may arise when working together.

  • Generate specific and focused action plans for individuals leaving situations of interpersonal violence and abuse who are concerned about animal care and safekeeping, in both urban and rural regions of Saskatchewan.

Protecting the Victims of Domestic Violence and their Animals Through the Use of Protective Orders

Ownership of animals is a barrier for many victims of interpersonal violence and abuse when seeking assistance at domestic violence shelters or transition houses. While many pet owners view their animals as members of the family, the Canadian legal system views animals as a form of “property.” Only two Canadian provinces include the terms “pets” or “animals” under their respective family violence legislation.

The following article explores current Canadian legislation and suggests possible directions for legal reforms that might benefit the victims of violence who own animals. 

The article was prepared by Pro Bono Students Canada Volunteers. Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC) is a student organization. PBSC students are not lawyers and are not authorized to provide legal advice. The information contained in the article is intended for general informational purposes only. Please consult with a lawyer to discuss your situation and specific legal questions you have.

Protecting the Victims of Domestic Violence and their Animals Through the Use of Protective Orders

Domestic Violence Death Review Final Report

In 2018, the final report from the Saskatchewan Domestic Violence Death Review panel was released.

The final report is the result of an in-depth look at six specific cases of homicide related to domestic violence.

Click here to download the final report from Saskatchewan.ca.

Violence Link Literature Review

In conjunction with Humane Canada, the national voice for animal welfare, Teena Stoddart recently undertook a literature review pertaining to the violence link. The twelve-page review highlights several areas within the violence link, such as intimate partner and domestic violence, youth, and major crimes. Stoddart’s review provides further context to the violence link as it goes beyond the well-known Venn diagram which often serves as a visual representation of incidents of violence.

Click here to download the Violence Link Literature Review.

Canadian residential facilities for victims of abuse, 2017/2018

Excerpt from page 6 of the report:

“An important service that has been recently identified as critical to those escaping violence is the accommodation of pets. The abuse of a pet or the threat thereof frequently co-occurs with domestic violence and is employed by the abuser as a means of preventing victims from leaving their homes (Barrett et al. 2017; Shelter Voices 2018; Stevenson 2009). In 2017/2018, 19% of residential facilities offered pet accommodations in some capacity. According to the Shelter Voices Survey conducted by Women’s Shelters Canada, a lack of resources was the most common reason why women’s shelters were unable to offer pet accommodation services (Shelter Voices 2018).”

Click here to download the report from Statistics Canada.

Other Research Articles

Wuerch, M. A., Giesbrecht, C. J., Jeffery, N., Knutson, T., & Wach, F. (2018). Intimate Partner Violence and Concern for Animal Care and Safekeeping: Experiences of Service Providers in Canada. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Article first published online: August 24, 2018.

Wuerch, M. A., Giesbrecht, C. J., Price, J. A. B., Knutson, T., & Wach, F. (2017).  Examining the Relationship Between Intimate Partner Violence and Concern for Animal Care and Safekeeping.  Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Article first published online: March 28, 2017.

Allison, M., Satterwhite, C., Ramaswamy, M., Hynek, M., & Agnew-Svoboda, Z. (2017). Strategies veterinary practices can use to address the problem of intimate partner violence. Journal of the American Veterinary Association, 250, 42-45.


Collins, E., Cody, A., McDonald, S., Nicotera, N., Ascione, F., & Williams, J. (2018). A template analysis of intimate partner violence survivors’ experiences of animal maltreatment: Implications for safety planning and intervention. Violence Against Women, 24, 452-476.


Crawford, D., & Bohac Clarke, V. (2012). Inside the cruelty connection: The role of animals in decision-making by domestic violence victims in rural Alberta.


Degue, S., & Dilillo, D. (2009). Is animal cruelty a "red flag" for family violence? Investigating co-occurring violence toward children, partners, and pets. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 24, 1036-1056.


Febres, J., Shorey, R.C., Brasfield, H., Zucosky, H.C., Ninnemann, A., Elmquist, J., Bucossi, M.M., Andersen, S.M., Schonbrun, Y.C., & Stuart, G.L. (2012). Adulthood animal abuse among women court-referred to batterer intervention programs. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. 27, 3115-3126.

McDonald, S.E., Collins, E.A., Maternick, A., Nicotera, N., Graham-Bermann, S., Ascione, F.R., & Williams, J.H. (2017). Intimate partner violence survivors’ report of their children’s exposure to companion animal maltreatment: A qualitative study. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 1-26.

Monsalve, S., Ferreira, F., & Garcia, R. (2017). The connection between animal abuse and interpersonal violence: A review from the veterinary perspective. Research in Veterinary Science, 114, 18-26.

Newberry, M. (2017). Pets in danger: Exploring the link between domestic violence and animal abuse. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 34, 273-281.

Peak, T., Ascione, F., & Doney, J. (2012). Adult protective services and animal welfare: Should animal abuse and neglect be assessed during adult protective services screening? Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 24, 37-49.

Riggs, D., Taylor, N., Fraser, H., Donovan, C., & Signal, T. (2018). The link between domestic violence and abuse and animal cruelty in the intimate relationships of people of diverse genders and/or sexualities: A binational study. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 1-27. DOI: 088626051877168.

Tiplady, CM, Walsh, DB, & Phillips, Cjc. (2012). Intimate partner violence and companion animal welfare.(Report). Australian Veterinary Journal, 90, 48-53.