FORT STEWART, Ga. - May is National Pet Month.

Approximately 35 percent of American households own at least one pet cat. Approximately 39 percent of American households own at least one dog. Additionally, millions of homes have other types of pets (i.e., birds, fish, rabbits, ferrets, and more). When speaking to almost any of these pet owners, they will tell you that their pet(s) is a part of the Family.

What many people do not know is that domestic violence does affect the furry members of the Family too. Often, if a person is abusing their spouse, partner, and/or child, their pets are also being abused. An abuser uses harm or threatens to harm the pet as a way to control their victim.

Animal abuse includes things such as knowingly depriving the animal of food, water, and veterinary care and socialization. Maliciously torturing, maiming or mutilating, or even killing an animal are other forms abuse.

Abuse of pets is often a reason why pet owners stay in an abusive relationship. Many are afraid of what their abuser will attempt to do to their furry Family Member should they decide to leave.

Others stay because the majority of domestic violence shelters do not accept pets.

Because of this very reason, programs like the Animal Safehouse were created. These programs provide foster care for the pets of victims in domestic violence situations, empowering them to leave the abusive situation and get help. Go to for additional information.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, call the ACS Victim Advocacy Program at (Stewart) 912-767-5058 or (Hunter) 912-315-6813. Report can also report animal abuse to your local animal control office.