Dogs Against Domestic Violence event raises awareness

Published 7:31 pm Monday, November 6, 2023

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Outer Banks Hotline hosted the first Dogs Against Domestic Violence event at Dowdy Park on Saturday, October 21 to raise awareness about the correlation between animal abuse and domestic violence.

The non-profit, which was founded in 1980, exists to provide crisis intervention and prevention services to residents and visitors to the Outer Banks including safe housing, information, education and advocacy to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.

“We make it possible for those who want to be free of a violent relationship, to succeed,” says their mission statement.

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One of the reasons victims will not leave an abusive situation, according to client advocate Melissa Traber, is because they do not want to leave their pet at home. Currently, the shelter accepts pets on a case-by-case basis, but at some point in the future, Hotline hopes to build a pet-friendly addition so that all pets will be welcomed with their owners.

Victims whose batterers abuse their pets have twice as many incidents of abuse compared to domestic violence victims whose batterers don’t abuse pets.

Animal abuse can be an on-road to domestic abuse, Traber said. “Generally troubled youth have high rates of animal cruelty during childhood, and they can then grow into adults who abuse people as well,” said Traber.

In fact, animal abuse is more often the first point of social services intervention to discovering domestic violence.

“People will report it when they see animal abuse, whereas with domestic abuse, people are kind of like, ‘That’s not my business,’” Traber said.

Dogs Against Domestic Violence seeks to bring awareness to domestic violence in Dare County, but also to reach out to people in the community who may need help for themselves and their pets.

“It’s a lighthearted way to get people involved and engaged,” Traber said.

She described the afternoon like a mix between a dog show and a vendor fair. The event featured several contests: Best Tail Wagger; Owner & Pet Look-a-Like; and Best Costume. Winners were presented with a personalized plaque and a gift basket full of doggie goodies and toys, and gift cards to Outer Banks Olive Oil Co., TW’s and PetSmart. Team members from First Flight Cheerleaders and East Coast Extreme All Stars judged the contests.

Food trucks, pet vendors and animal non-profits set up booths throughout the park, including Stag’s Soulshine Kitchen, Critter Claws Mobile Manicures, Pet Care Services by Pam Anderson, Ocean Sands K-9 Resort and Currituck Animal Shelter.

Though Hotline executive director Bronwyn Thornton would like to see the event grow in future years into a fundraiser, she called this year’s Dogs Against Domestic Violence a friend-raiser.

“It’s just going to start the conversation of how people in domestic violence situations often have barriers to seeking help. When they have pets they are of course very emotionally invested and not wanting to leave the situation where they know the pet is in danger,” Thornton said.

Other times, she added, people will not reach out to Hotline if there are illegal substances involved, or if they are lacking documentation.

“Our help is totally free and it’s totally anonymous,” Thornton said. “We can’t even report to the police if we hear about something unless someone directly asks us to … We don’t call ICE. That’s not what we’re here for. We’re just here to make sure that anybody that wants to escape a life of violence has the tools and the support to go from being a victim to being a survivor.”