New Saskatoon police chief should understand link between animal, domestic abuse: SPCA

The Saskatchewan SPCA wants Saskatoon’s new police chief to understand the link between domestic violence and animal abuse.

Commission should consider connection in search to replace Clive Weighill, animal welfare organization says

Studies have shown that domestic violence and animal abuse do not happen in isolation of one another, says the Saskatchewan SPCA's Frances Wach. (Nathalie Sturgeon)

The Saskatchewan SPCA wants Saskatoon's new police chief to understand the link between domestic violence and animal abuse.

In a letter to the Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners, the SPCA urged the board to take the link into consideration when hiring a new police chief.

"Having a police chief with knowledge and familiarity of the connection between these forms of violence, Saskatoon could be a leader in preventing animal cruelty and interpersonal violence," Saskatchewan SPCA executive director Frances Wach wrote in the letter, which is dated Oct. 25, 2017.

The Saskatchewan SPCA is an animal welfare organization that is "working to create a humane world for animals and humans alike," the letter stated. It was addressed to police commission chair Darlene Brander.

In an interview, Wach said the letter was written because the Saskatchewan SPCA believes it's important "for individuals who work in law enforcement to be aware of the link between all forms of violence."

"We use the term 'the link,' which basically means when animals are being abused people are at risk, and when people are being abused animals are at risk," she said.

Connection explored in report

It's not the first time the Saskatchewan SPCA has raised the link between animal abuse and domestic violence.

A 2016 SPCA report, written in collaboration with Saskatchewan Towards Offering Partnership Solutions to Violence (STOPS to Violence) and the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan (PATHS), indicated some domestic violence victims are remaining in abusive homes because they fear for their pets' safety if they leave.

The study asked workers at "human services," including women's shelters and victim services, if they knew of victims whose pets had stopped them from fleeing domestic abuse. About 77 per cent of those surveyed said that they did.

"As you may know, at more than double the national average, Saskatchewan has the highest rates of reported domestic violence in Canada," Wach's letter to the police commission stated.

"The Saskatchewan SPCA is working with stakeholders from a variety of sectors to support the needs of victims of violence and their animals."

Saskatoon's police chief, Clive Weighill, retired in early October after 11 years leading the city's police service. The hunt is now on to find a replacement for Weighill, who spent 42 years in law enforcement.