Friday, December 31, 2010

Unanswered phone not the problem

Posted By on Fri, Dec 31, 2010 at 11:53 AM

Perhaps you saw this week's headline in our local daily: "Police: Unanswered phone led to puppy's death."

It's a very sad situation. After an argument Dec. 23, according to court records, a Colorado Springs man allegedly stomped his girlfriend's puppy to death. Records say he told the woman he killed the dog because she wouldn't answer her phone.

And the Gazette's headline would lead you to think the phone caused the death, or more specifically, that the person who didn't answer the phone caused the death.

A puppy didn't die because of an unanswered phone. A puppy died as the result of a relationship involving domestic violence. The couple had been in court earlier this year, at which time the woman received a restraining order against the man.


To me, the names in this case don't matter because this type of situation unfolds every day in this community. Domestic violence is a matter of power and control; in this case, the man allegedly used the puppy as a tool to exert his control over the woman. It's a commonly used threat: "If I can do this, just consider what else I can do if you don't do what I want you to."

Frankly, the pawn could have been anything, from a child to a car to a paycheck. A perpetrator of violence will use whatever he or she can to wield power over his or her victim. In this situation, it was a very young puppy.

Which brings me to the specific role pets often play in violent relationships. As a former TESSA employee, I heard over and over again victims who said they couldn't take the steps to escape a relationship because they didn't want to leave their pets behind with the abuser. Statistics show that it can take a victim seven to nine times to permanently leave a violent relationship. Add in a furry friend, and it ups the issues a victim has to reconcile before making a difficult, and potentially deadly, decision.

Most shelters, including TESSA's, do not have the capabilities to accept pets. Because of this, many years back, TESSA worked with the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region to set up a SafePets program.

If a victim wants to enter TESSA's emergency shelter but is worried about a companion animal, TESSA and the Humane Society will help set up a temporary foster situation. The victim can be assured that while she is in shelter, her pet will be safe.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, with a pet or otherwise, please know there are resources for you in this community. You can reach TESSA's crisisline at 633-3819.

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