Pet care could help domestic violence survivors seek aid faster, new study finds

For more information Phone: 847-313-9597 Cell: 847-313-9597
For immediate release:

(SCHAUMBURG, Illinois) March 8, 2024— Innovative partnerships involving the private sector, veterinarians and community volunteers could greatly benefit both human and animal survivors of domestic violence, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Multiple studies of domestic violence over the years have demonstrated simultaneous animal abuse, but most domestic violence shelters do not allow pets in the facility with their owners, the study noted.

“A significant percentage of survivors reported that concern for their pets’ welfare delayed their attempts to escape their abuser, keeping both human and animal survivors in continued danger,” the study said. “In many reports, children were also witnesses and/or survivors, which is in turn linked to a higher risk of perpetrating animal cruelty themselves.”

While programs exist in several states to help families attempting to escape an abusive situation with their pets, such as providing boarding for the animals at local animal shelters, kennels, or veterinary clinics, resources can be strained during time of need.

To help meet these needs, in 2021, Hill’s Pet Nutrition partnered with the YWCA Northeast Kansas’ Center for Safety and Empowerment in Topeka, KS, to establish a temporary housing program that could provide short-notice, full-service care for pets of domestic-violence survivors. The program relied in part on the corporation’s extensive resources, animal-care network and large cadre of volunteers.

Procedures for identification, intake, medical and behavioral needs, and shelter of pets belonging to domestic violence survivors were established. Working with a volunteer veterinary clinic, the program provided evaluation of pets and then sought to place them with foster families in the area.

During the period of the study, May 2021-June 2023, a total of 13 dogs and six cats belonging to 13 owners were referred to the program.

“The major hurdles that these programs often run into are small teams and limited financial and people resources,” said Dr. Hillary L. Pearce at Hill’s Pet Nutrition and lead author of the paper. “Having the support of a large company with a defined focus on animal welfare allowed us the provision of financial resources for supplies such as pet food, vet care, and access to a large employee pool of people who care about animals and who could serve as foster volunteers.”

The study’s authors hope the detailed steps outlined in the paper for organizing the intake and foster-care process will serve as a model that other corporations, social-welfare organizations and volunteers could emulate.

“We wanted to allow others to create similar programs locally without having to reinvent the wheel for themselves,” said Dr. Pearce.  “It would be a great way for any company that views itself as a pillar of their local community to get involved and give back.”

The study noted that “veterinarians are likely to encounter pets affected by domestic violence and may be mandatory reporters in some states. This paper will aid veterinarians and community partners to understand the challenges and pet types they are likely to encounter and how best to assist.”

Dr. Pearce’s co-authors are Becca Spielman of the YWCA, Monique Pairis-Garcia, DVM, PhD, North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, and Cassie Weatherwax of Hill’s Pet Nutrition, who serves as the program’s current administrator.

"At Hill's Pet Nutrition, we see this initiative as an example of how we live our purpose of creating a healthier and happier future for pets and the people who care about them,” said Dr. Karen Shenoy, U.S. Chief Veterinary Officer at Hill’s Pet Nutrition. “Knowing how prevalent this issue is, including in our own community, we felt a responsibility to help survivors and their pets stay together, while achieving safety. It's our hope that this program can serve as a model for similar programs to be established nationwide. Unfortunately, there's much work yet to be done in this space.”

About the AVMA

Serving more than 105,000 member veterinarians, the AVMA is the nation's leading representative of the veterinary profession, dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of animals, humans and the environment. Founded in 1863 and with members in every U.S. state and territory and more than 60 countries, the AVMA is one of the largest veterinary medical organizations in the world. Informed by our members' unique scientific training and clinical knowledge, the AVMA supports the crucial work of veterinarians and advocates for policies that advance the practice of veterinary medicine and improve animal and human health.

About Hill’s Pet Nutrition

Founded 75 years ago with an unwavering commitment to science-led pet nutrition, Hill's Pet Nutrition is on a mission to help enrich and lengthen the special relationships between people and their pets. Hill's is dedicated to pioneering research for dogs and cats using a scientific understanding of their specific needs. As a leading veterinarian recommended pet food brand, knowledge is our first ingredient with 220+ veterinarians, PhD nutritionists and food scientists working to develop breakthrough innovations in pet health. Hill's Prescription Diet therapeutic nutrition plus our everyday wellness product line, Hill's Science Diet, are sold at vet clinics and pet specialty retailers worldwide. For more information about our products and nutritional philosophy, visit