Animal Abuse and Family Violence

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Recent studies have found high rates of coexistence between animal abuse and family violence. This study explores the resultant questions of how and why animal abuse and other forms of family violence frequently coexist. To address these questions information was gathered through in-depth, semi-standardized interviews with abused women who had at least one pet while they were with their abusive partner. This study focuses on the participants’ experiences and interpretations of how and why these forms of abuse coexist, and the degree to which the animal abuse perpetrated by their partners was instrumental or expressive. It is demonstrated in this book that animal abuse was predominantly instrumentalized by the participants’ abusive partners to gain power and control over them and their children, and it was additionally perpetrated out of jealousy in cases where the pet posed a threat to the attention and devotion the abuser received from his partner. Recommendations are made in light of these research findings, and further research in this area, and human-animal relations more generally, is urged.


“What is distinctive, informative and fascinating about Ms. Fitzgerald’s ground-breaking sociological analysis is her examination, through case studies, of how and why family violence and animal abuse are interrelated. Her empirical analysis of the experience of women in abusive relationships demonstrates in an intriguing and novel fashion how animals are abused – and used – in order to gain power and control in a variety of complex familial situations. She demonstrates in an entirely original manner how in numerous instances household companion animals are the source of jealousy and rivalry between spouses. The details of the study will be of great interest to academic researchers, to policy-makers, and, in general, to all those who have an earnest interest in the human condition, and in the expression of that condition as engendered by the complexities and rivalries of contemporary society. Ms. Fitzgerald’s study constitutes an excellent example of how disturbing societal factors that lend themselves so readily to hyperbole and ideology can be examined in a scientific and impartial manner with at least as much effectiveness and strength as those that are more readily driven by anger and expressed in polemic. Ms. Fitzgerald’s book, I am confident, will prove to have a profound influence not only on the future direction of studies in the field but will be welcomed by those in policy-making and the policy sciences as extremely useful to them in determining effective proposals that may help overcome some of the problems outlined. This book should become one of the more valuable studies in influencing the growing awareness that the human-companion animal relationship is a complex one. The book is full of novel insights into those relationships and the lessons they have for human society.” – (from the Commendatory Preface) Dr. Rod Preece, General Editor, Mellen Animal Rights Library

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. The Variable Social Construction of Animals and Their Abuse
3. Social Science and Animal-Related Research
4. The Multiple Victims of Family Violence
5. Research Methodology
6. An Analysis of How Animal Abuse and Other Forms of Family Violence Coexist
7. An Analysis of Why Animal Abuse and Other Forms of Family Violence Coexist
8. Discussion and Conclusions

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