SLU news

Threats and violence in close relationships with a connection to animals

Published: 13 November 2023
Carin Holmberg

The County Administrative Board and SLU invited veterinarians and other personnel who work in animal health care to learn to see the connection between animals and threats and violence in close relationships. For an entire afternoon, those interested gathered and listened to several invited guests.

The lecturer and Ph.D. in sociology Carin Holmberg and Therese Lilliesköld with a master's in anthrozoology guided the participants through the afternoon about research results on how animals are used in relationships where violence occurs, intentionally inflicted injuries (NAI), the difference between neglect and the effects of violence. Both Carin and Therese are involved in the National Knowledge Center Se Sambandet and are often out lecturing on violence in close relationships and the connection between how animals and children are affected.

Carin Holmberg told how power and control over one's partner could happen by, for example, removing the "source of love", the pet. How common it is for the violent party to exercise power and control by killing or euthanizing the animal that is close to the victim. Or how the threat of harming the same can make the victim stay in the relationship.

The possibilities of animal healthcare

The majority of abused women with pets visit the vet annually. This means that veterinarians and animal health workers can be the first to discover an animal exposed to violence. The lack of standardization in how different injuries should be handled leads to few reports and the number of unknowns is high.

A challenge Carin and Therese see is that veterinary students do not acquire sufficient knowledge during their training in these matters. This leads to uncertain staff who find it difficult to know how to act in the clinic in suspected cases of animal abuse. Among the materials produced by See the Connection is an Action Plan for veterinarians and animal health professionals regarding the connection (link to material that can be ordered at home for free).

The day ended with a representative from the association VooV talking about their emergency shelters for animals so that victims of violence can escape and feel safe that the animals are well cared for in the meantime.


Joanna Hagströms, Communications officer
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science, SLU, +46 18 67 30 66