News Release

November 14, 2012

Alberta SPCA study confirms animals become pawns in domestic violence situations

Victims delayed leaving and were controlled by threats to animals

A new report by the Alberta SPCA highlights additional difficulties faced by victims of domestic violence when animals are involved. The report, Inside the Cruelty Connection: The Role of Animals in Decision-Making by Domestic Violence Victims in Rural Alberta, documents a study conducted throughout the province.

One of the study’s key findings is that more than half of abused women who have animals reported that they delayed leaving because of their animals. Other findings include the following:

  • 36% of abused women with animals reported that their abuser threatened or harmed their animals.
  • 85% of threats against animals were carried out.
  • In cases that involved children as well as threatened animals, 85% of women reported that the children witnessed the threat or harm to the animal.
  • In half of those cases, it was the child’s own pet.
  • 27% of abused women with animals were afraid to seek help out of concern for their animals.

To address this situation, the Alberta SPCA has led the formation of the Alberta Alliance for the Safety of Animals and People (AASAP). This multi-disciplinary group has formed to examine the obstacles and gaps in service, and to suggest solutions that won’t add to the burden of organizations currently helping both human and animal victims of domestic violence. AASAP includes professionals from law enforcement, social services, veterinary services, health, animal welfare, legal education and other communities.

The study, conducted by Dr. Donna Crawford and Dr. Veronika Bohac Clarke, draws from surveys conducted in five rural and suburban women’s shelters. Its findings are in keeping with studies conducted in other North American jurisdictions. The report has been sent to numerous Alberta ministries because this issue has broad implications for many aspects of the lives of Albertans.

As the provincial humane society, the Alberta SPCA has a unique perspective of the multi-faceted relationships between people and animals in all areas of Alberta. This project harkens back to the birth of the humane movement in the province, when in 1904 Louise McKinney encouraged humane education and formation of humane societies as a way to counteract domestic violence. We are proud to continue in that tradition.

The report is available at

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For further information, please contact

Tim Battle
Director of Education, Alberta SPCA
10806 - 124 Street NW
Edmonton, AB  T5M 0H3
Tel: 780-447-3600 ext. 3739