HSUS First Strike! Campaign Combats Animal Cruelty

According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the nation's largest animal protection organization, research shows a strong correlation between domestic violence and animal abuse. In a 1997 survey of domestic violence shelters, researchers found that 85.4 percent of women's shelter directors report that women in their facilities talk about the abuse of pets as part of their victimization. Surveys of women in shelters in Utah and Wisconsin found that 71 to 80 percent of women with pets report violence or threats of violence towards their pets.

Animal shelters across the country are implementing programs designed to temporarily house the pets of domestic violence victims in recognition of the need to protect animals while giving victims an opportunity to escape. Claire Ponder is the new Manager of The HSUS' First Strike! Campaign, which is designed to increase awareness about the

connection between animal cruelty and human violence. She hopes to expand these programs to additional communities.

"By working together, law enforcement agencies, social services agencies, animal shelters, and schools can do a better job of protecting all of the victims of violence," said Ponder.

Another goal of the First Strike! Campaign is to strengthen penalties and enforcement of animal cruelty laws. The majority of states now have felony level penalties for animal cruelty offenses, but in many areas, reports of animal cruelty are not actively investigated or prosecuted.

"Too many law enforcement officials still don't realize that violence is violence," said Ponder. "Animal cruelty is wrong in its own right, but it also can lead to eventual violence against people if it is ignored."

For more information on The HSUS' First Strike! Campaign, visit The HSUS' web site, www.hsus.org.

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