Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Social Work

Major Professor

William Nugent


Since the beginning of empirical exploration about woman battering over twenty years ago, the bond some battered women have with companion animals has been app-arent. However, it is only within the last 5 years that any empirical attention has been directed toward specifically exploring the link between animal abuse and interpersonal violence in the lives of battered women. The purpose of this non-experimental survey design study was to replicate the findings of previous studies on animal abuse in the lives of battered women, as well as to freshly explore the proportion of battered women who are prompted to leave abusive relationships because of concern for the safety of their pets. Additionally a semi-structured interview with a domestic violence worker provided qualitative data about battered women's experiences with animal abuse. Of the 51 battered women surveyed from two domestic violence shelters, 84% reported having pets, 74% reported that their pets had been threatened, 52% reported that their pets had been harmed, and 14% reported that their pets had been killed. Ninety-one percent of women reported that they worried about their companion animals while in abusive relationships and 60% indicated that this worry affected their decisions to seek shelter. Twenty-six percent of the battered women reported still worrying about their companion animals after coming into the domestic violence shelter. Qualitative findings suggest that battered women without children worry and grieve more deeply about their pets than women with children. Similarly, quantitative results indicated that women without children were more likely to report that concern for their pets affected their decisions to seek shelter than women with children (x2{1) = 7.03, p=.01; phi = -.42). Because of sample limitations, the findings of this study are not generalizable. However, almost all of the estimates observed in this study fall within the range of those found in previous similarly designed research on this topic to date. Based on the findings of this research and taken within the context of the literature base as a whole, implications for considering and attending to animals in the lives of battered women are outlined for both micro and macro social work application. Moreover, based on a critical review of the literature suggestions for future social work research on this topic are presented.

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