A family sits in their car parked in the dirt driveway of their Kootenai County home, in the midst of a heated, abusive argument.
Their dog sits on the dirt in front of the automobile, and the argument continues until the father puts the car in gear. To prove his point, he drives the vehicle forward over the family dog, and repeats the action again and again as his two children and their mother watch. The dog dies.
It's not uncommon for animal abuse and domestic violence to be directly linked in this way.
A Humane Society of the United States study of 48 of the largest centers for victims of partner and child abuse shows that 88 percent of the women who came in reported incidents of animal abuse, and 63 percent of the children who came in reported the same.
In a separate study, over a quarter of women interviewed said they delayed leaving an abusive relationship because they did not want to leave their pets or farm animals behind.
"When a person is leaving a violent situation, if they have to abandon their pet, they can suffer extreme feelings of guilt," said Jamie Smith, co-founder of the Save Haven for Pets program. "It can get in the way of their healing and getting themselves together, and more often they will go back into that situation to protect the pet."
In 2005, a mutual friend of Smith introduced her to Tammy Meyers, who worked at the Women's Center in Coeur d'Alene, now known as the North Idaho Violence Prevention Center. Meyers had a dream to create a safe haven program for pets and farm animals in need.
"When we got together and talked about it, it became my dream too," Smith said. "It was two people who felt passionate about the same thing, putting it together."
The Safe Haven for Pets Program, a partnership between the Kootenai Humane Society and the North Idaho Violence Prevention Center, has three goals - the first one being creating a safe place for the pets of victims of domestic violence.
"And that's been accomplished," Smith said. "We are doing a good job with that."
Since its founding, 43 dogs and cats, and one bird, have been taken in by the Kootenai Humane Society as part of the program.
"The advocate brings the pet out to the shelter and our first priority is to see if we can put the animal into foster care," Debbie Jeffrey, Director of Operations at Kootenai Humane Society, said. "But there are strict rules associated with it because you never know if there would be a situation where the abuser would recognize that dog."
If foster care cannot be found, the animals are placed in a private area of the shelter and are taken care of by employees and volunteers.
"It's just like the women in the home," Jeffrey said. "The animal comes into our shelter but we don't call it by its real name or anything. So if someone is looking for it in the system, they aren't going to find it."
Every animal brought in as part of the program is vaccinated, spayed or neutered and any illness or injury is treated.
The second goal of the Safe Haven for Pets Program is classroom education that focuses on showing empathy toward animals and pets. According to Smith most area schools have participated in the educational program in which a therapy dog is brought into the classroom and books are read.
"We want them to understand that if they are in a situation like that (of abuse) that they can talk to a teacher or some other trusted adult," Smith said.
The third and final goal of the group is establishing an interagency connection to coordinate anti-violence efforts.
"What we are hoping is that we will raise the level of professional and community involvement so that all acts of violence are dealt with promptly and appropriately," Smith said.
Smith said they want to encourage cross-reporting between agencies so, for example, law enforcement officers responding to family violence calls are trained to identify pets being abused also.
Although the third goal has still not begun to be implemented, Smith said that they have "perfected the first" part of the program and have now begun to reach out to other agencies in the hope of not only getting more involvement but more awareness and education for the correlation.
"It is here," Smith said of the cases of animal abuse and their connection with other types of family abuse. "There's an overwhelmingly huge connection. It's important that people recognize that and step up to help someone, whether it's a child or adult, that they see that needs help. I would like to encourage anyone that does need help to come in and get help and bring your animal."