How pets also suffer from abuse against humans - SSPCA chief

Falkirk sees its grim share of abuse against animals, but in common with any other area of Scotland the true scale of suffering may still be hidden.

SSPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn.
SSPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn.

That’s the sad conclusion of SSPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn, reflecting on the two whole decades which have passed since the animals charity first highlighted the potential link between domestic violence and animal cruelty.

“I am sorry to say that I have personally seen pets of all species seriously injured or killed due to getting caught up in domestic violent situations”, he said.

The abuse across Scotland ranges from dogs and cats with broken limbs, stabbed or hung to lovebirds, goldfish and hamsters being microwaved or poisoned - all to get back at a partner.

He says a nationwide survey of veterinary surgeons revealed the majority had never considered the possibility of non-accidental injuries to animals.

However the same survey showed a surprising number of instances where animals were treated for injuries that did not match the history given by the pet owner - for example a kitten with broken back legs after sliding from a couch, or skin burns from brushing against something.

Courses have been introduced to train vets to spot the signs of non-accidental injury, but he says reporting is haphazard.

Some cite concerns over data protection and client confidentiality.

Mike Flynn said: “Over the years I and many colleagues have been involved in obvious domestic violence incidents, where the abused person will not flee the home because they would have to leave an animal behind, and are afraid of what the partner has threatened, or will do, to the animal.

“If a parent and their children have to leave the home to escape domestic violence the authorities will accommodate them, but they have no scope or duty to care for the family pet.

“On many of these occasions the children have never seen the parent suffer at the hands of the partner and blame that parent for leaving the family home.

“In some domestic abuse situations pets are used by an abuser as a bargaining tool or for coercion to dominate the partner or children.

“This can include both physical and mental cruelty to the children, partner - or the pet”.

He added: “Abuse still goes on. Domestic violence and animal abuse are serious crimes with long lasting effects on the victims.

“Government agencies are getting better in recognising the potential link, but sadly their budgets and workforces are dwindling.

“Where there are concerns, organisations must work together to prevent some of the tragedies we read about every year.

“If you are concerned about the welfare of an animal, please contact our confidential animal helpline on 03000 999 999”.