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AIPARG's Research

Barrett, B., Fitzgerald, A., Stevenson, R., & Cheung, C.H. (2019). Animal Maltreatment in the Context of Intimate Partner Violence: A Manifestation of Power and Control? Violence Against Women: 1077801218824993. DOI: 10.1177/1077801218824993

Abstract: This study tests the theoretically informed assumption that intimate partner violence (IPV) and animal abuse so frequently co-occur because animal maltreatment is instrumentalized by abusers to harm human victims. Using data from a survey of abused women in Canadian shelters, we find that threats to harm "pets," emotional animal abuse, and animal neglect are clearly perceived by these survivors as being intentionally perpetrated by their abuser and motivated by a desire to upset and control them; the findings related to physical animal abuse are not as straightforward. Building on these findings, we propose a more nuanced theorizing of the coexistence of animal maltreatment and IPV.


 Gray, A., Barrett, B., Fitzgerald, A., & Peirone, A. (2018). Fleeing with Fido: An analysis of what Canadian domestic violence shelters are communicating via their websites about leaving an abusive relationship when pets are involved. Journal of Family Violence. DOI: 10.1007/s10896-018-0023-z

Abstract: In response to the growing body of empirical research demonstrating a substantial co-occurrence of intimate partner violence (IPV) and animal abuse, domestic violence shelters are increasingly offering on- or off-site services to care for the pets of abused women accessing shelter services. This paper analyzes all public websites of first-stage shelters in Canada (n=337) to offer the first examination of what these shelters are communicating about this co-occurrence of abuse and an appraisal of what services are available to survivors with pets across the country. The findings indicate that less than half of the websites mention pets, and only 1% of shelters report offering on-site pet programs. There are significant relationships between websites addressing the role of pets in both safety planning and help-seeking among abused women and the provision of pet shelter services. The paper concludes with suggestions for pet-related information on domestic violence shelter websites in Canada and elsewhere.


Barrett, B., Fitzgerald, A., Peirone, A., Stevenson, R., & Cheung, C.H. (2018). Help-seeking among abused women with pets: Evidence from a Canadian sample. Violence and Victims, 33(4), pp. 604-626. DOI: 10.1891/0886-6708.VV-D-17-00072

Abstract: A growing body of research has highlighted the co-occurrence of violence against women and companion animals in abusive households. Collectively, this work has also documented that sizable proportions of women with pets sampled report that they delayed leaving their partner due to fear for their pets' safety. At least one study has indicated that pet abuse can motivate women to leave an abusive relationship. Using data from 55 residents of 16 battered women’s shelters in Canada, this study begins to tease apart the relationship between five types of animal maltreatment (emotional abuse, threats to harm, neglect, physical abuse, and severe physical abuse) and women’s deliberations to leave violent relationships. The findings indicate that while the specific types of animal maltreatment are significant motivators for leaving an abusive partner, the length of the relationship and the physical abuse experienced by the woman better explain the degree to which concern for the well-being of the pet kept them from leaving their abuser earlier.


Stevenson, R., Fitzgerald, A., & Barrett, B. (2017). Keeping pets safe in the context of intimate partner violence: Insights from domestic violence shelter staff in Canada. Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work, 33(2), pp. 236-252. DOI: 10.1177/0886109917747613

Abstract: The connection between intimate partner violence (IPV) and abuse against animals is becoming well documented. Women consistently report that their pets have been threatened or harmed by their abuser, and many women delay leaving abusive relationships out of concern for their pets. Shelters are often faced with limited resources, and it can be difficult to see how their mandate to assist women fleeing IPV also includes assistance to their companion animals. Through surveys with staff from 17 IPV shelters in Canada, the current study captures a snapshot of the shelter policies and practices regarding companion animals. The study explores staff's own relationships with pets and exposure to animal abuse, as well as how these experiences relate to support for pet safekeeping programs, perceived barriers, and perceived benefits for the programs. Policy implications for IPV service agencies include asking clients about concerns about pet safety, clear communication of agency policies regarding services available for pet safekeeping, and starting a conversation at the agency-level on how to establish a pet safekeeping program in order to better meet the needs of women seeking refuge from IPV.


Barrett, B., Fitzgerald, A., Stevenson, R., & Chung, C.H. (2017). Animal maltreatment as a risk marker of more frequent and severe forms of intimate partner violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, pp. 1-26. DOI: 10.1177/0886260517719542

Abstract: Although there is a growing body of literature documenting the co-occurrence of animal abuse and intimate partner violence (IPV), only a few studies have examined the relationship between animal maltreatment, types of IPV, and abuse severity. The results of those studies have been inconclusive and in some cases even contradictory. The current study contributes new findings to that specific segment of the literature and sheds some light on the inconsistent findings in previous studies. Data were gathered from 86 abused women receiving services from domestic violence shelters across Canada via a structured survey about pet abuse and the level and types of IPV perpetrated by abusive partners. Type and severity of IPV was measured using subscales of the Revised Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS2) and the Checklist of Controlling Behaviors (CCB). Animal maltreatment was measured using the Partner’s Treatment of Animals Scale (PTAS). Participants were divided into three groups: women who did not have pets during their abusive relationship (n = 31), women who had pets and reported little or no animal maltreatment (n = 21), and women who had pets and reported frequent or severe animal maltreatment (n = 34). Examining within-group variations in experiences of IPV and pet abuse using a series of one-way between-groups ANOVA tests, this study provides evidence to support the conclusion that women who report that their partner mistreated their pets are themselves at significantly greater risk of more frequent and severe forms of IPV, most specifically psychological, physical, and sexual abuse. The findings point to the urgency of better understanding and mitigating the unique barriers to leaving an abusive relationship faced by women with companion animals.


Fitzgerald, A., Barrett, B., Schwom, R., Stevenson, R., & Chernyak, E. (2016). Standardizing the Measurement of Animal Maltreatment in the Context of Intimate Partner Violence: Development of The Partner's Treatment of Animals Scale. Anthrozoos, 29(4), 611-625. DOI: 10.1080/08927936.2016.1228760

Abstract: Although studies of the relationship between animal abuse and intimate partner violence have proliferated in recent years, building upon previous work and making cross-study comparisons have been rendered difficult by the utilization of differing operationalizations of animal maltreatment within this literature. This paper aims to mitigate this problem by introducing and detailing a scale of animal maltreatment by romantic partners, developed and tested with a sample of 55 women in domestic violence shelters who self-identified as victims of intimate partner violence. The Partner’s Treatment of Animals Scale (PTAS) is comprised of five scales (emotional animal abuse, threats to harm animals, animal neglect, physical animal abuse, and severe physical animal abuse) that have strong demonstrated reliability. The construction of the scales is presented in this paper, and recommendations are made for employing the PTAS in subsequent studies.


Works using AIPARG's Research

Ontario Association of Interval & Transition Houses (OAITH). (2018). Pet Safety and Women: Options for Women with Pets Leaving Abusive Situations. Retrieved from


Safe Place for Pets. (2018). RedRover. Retrieved from