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Milwaukee’s Spot Abuse Project Targets Domestic and Animal Violence

Abuse of family members and animals are linked

May. 7, 2014
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An astounding 76% of animal abusers also abuse a family member, according to the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

That’s the sobering statistic behind the Spot Abuse Project, a first-of-its-kind campaign launched May 1 by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, Milwaukee Police Department, Wisconsin Humane Society, Sojourner Family Peace Center, Serve Marketing and Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC).

The campaign aims to create awareness of the inextricable link between animal abuse and domestic and family violence, and to encourage those who witness animal abuse to take action and dial 911.

“This is a major law enforcement initiative, not just a one-off type thing,” said Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm at the program’s launch. “It has a broader importance that addresses issues that lead to these problems that are all so deeply connected. We want to address the issue as soon as we see it and now we have law enforcement that is getting extensive training.”

The Spot Abuse Project’s primary goals are to increase the amount of reported cases of animal abuse by 15% and the number of domestic abuse arrests in Milwaukee by 10% over the next 12 months.

“A campaign has never been done at this level of coordinated partnership anywhere else in the country,” said Gary Mueller, founder of Serve Marketing. “Every six to seven weeks [throughout the year] we’re going to be launching new campaigns and new efforts so that we can reach people in different ways and really inspire them to take part in this campaign and report abuse.”

The project’s public service announcements feature an abused dog—no animals were harmed in the making of the materials—and a child. The caption: “He’s Next” or “She’s Next.”

“The campaign that we’ve created is very graphic,” Mueller said. “The message is disturbing. We consider it uncomfortable to look at and that’s the goal of the campaign. We want to make people uncomfortable when they are inactive with not reporting abuse.”

According to Inspector Carianne Yerkes, the Milwaukee Police Department is being trained on how to properly investigate, identify and document animal abuse. Training also covers how to arrange for emergency shelters for pets of victims of domestic violence. 911 operators and dispatchers are being trained as well.

In addition, the campaign is addressing the American Humane Association finding that 65% of domestic violence victims stay in abusive homes or delay leaving out of concern for the safety of their pets. To tackle this, the Wisconsin Humane Society and Sojourner Family Peace Center have created the Safe Haven Foster Program, which offers up to 60 days of foster care for animals of domestic violence victims so that these victims can leave their situation and seek help without having to worry about their animal’s well-being.

“It’s sometimes not said enough, but Milwaukee actually is looked to for initiatives that we’ve undertaken collaboratively,” said Chisholm. “In many areas, we are looked at as a national model and this will be one of them—I promise you that.”

For more information about the campaign, visit spotabuse.org or facebook.com/spotabuse.

If you witness animal abuse, please call 911. If you are a victim of domestic abuse and are seeking help, contact the Sojourner Family Peace Center at 414-933-2722.


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