Allison, M., Satterwhite, C., Ramaswamy, M., Hynek, M. T., & Agnew-Svoboda, Z. (2017). Strategies veterinary practices can use to address the problem of intimate partner violence. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 250(1), 42-45.
Intimate partner violence (IPV) refers to violence in the home perpetrated by a loved one or romantic partner.1 Although women between 18 and 24 years old are the most common victims of IPV,2 this problem affects people of all genders, races and ethnicities, income levels, and sexual orientations. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, including a lack of knowledge about local resources, fear of disclosing IPV, and dissatisfaction with the response when seeking help in the past, many individuals who experience IPV go unrecognized.3 Pets often represent a vital source of support for women experiencing IPV,4,a and concerns for their animals’ well-being likely brings them to the veterinary clinic, regardless of whether the pets themselves are being abused or threatened at home.5,6 Thus, veterinary practice staff members can potentially play a unique role in IPV intervention, especially in instances when IPV occurs in conjunction with pet abuse. However, even when pet abuse is not apparent or suspected, veterinary staff members can help spread awareness and knowledge of IPV-related resources. Although scant literature exists on the use of veterinary services by women experiencing IPV, it is worth exploring how veterinary staff members could be more involved in addressing IPV among women seeking veterinary care for their pets and how veterinary practices could play a role in facilitating women’s decisions to seek help—with their pets—before violence escalates further. Although standardized training and protocols for identifying and addressing suspected IPV among clients seeking care for their pets are not currently available, there are proactive strategies veterinary staff members could potentially use to assist women in these situations. Such strategies revolve around disseminating information about IPV and animal abuse, creating a relationship-centered care model, and developing partnerships with violence protection agencies.