Pet abuse and domestic violence are closely linked. Animals can’t talk but University of Sydney vet Dr Lydia Tong has shown vets how to tell the difference between bone fractures caused by accidents and those caused by abuse. Her fracture identification methods are giving vets the added confidence to identify cases of violence against pets and could serve as a warning of domestic violence.
Now, in a new study with Domestic Violence NSW, Lydia is looking deeper into the connections between animal abuse and domestic violence to assess the need for better services to protect both human and animal victims.
“Around 70% of women escaping violent homes also report pet abuse,” says Lydia. “So vets are often the first to see evidence of abuse in a family, when they treat injured pets.”
“Different forces on bones can tell a story—the skeleton of an animal keeps a distinct record that indicates the force applied to bones from past injuries, breaks or fractures. But it can often be difficult for vets to say with confidence whether a fracture has resulted from abuse or accident.”
To give vets this confidence, in a 2014 study, Lydia collected cases of abused dogs who were punched, hit with a blunt weapon or kicked, and examined the fractures from these injuries. She then compared these fractures to those caused by genuine accidents. Her results, published in The Veterinary Journal, identified five key features of fractures that vets could look for to distinguish accidents from abuse.
Now, having given vets this reference to diagnose abuse, Lydia and her colleagues at The University of Sydney are gathering more information on the connections between domestic violence and animal abuse. [click to continue…]